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Las Vegas Bowl Cancelled As COVID-19 Ravages College Football Postseason Play

Ross Everett
by in NCAAF on
  • The 2020 Las Vegas Bowl has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The game was to have moved from Sam Boyd Stadium to the brand new Allegiant Stadium for 2020.
  • Ten bowl games have already been cancelled and several more will play without fans in attendance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered the 2020 sports landscape and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Nowhere is this more evident than in college football which has struggled to keep the proverbial wheels on all season long. By now, the sight of a dozen or more cancelled college football games on the Don Best odds feed is commonplace. This week, for example, four of the five games scheduled for Friday night have been cancelled or postponed. Thirteen games on Saturday’s card have been postponed or cancelled.

College bowl season is right around the corner and the situation won’t be getting any better. Last year, there were 46 college football bowl games. To this point there have already been ten bowl games cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest is the Las Vegas Bowl which announced its cancellation earlier this week. This was supposed to be a big year for the game as it moved from Sam Boyd Stadium to the brand new state of the art Allegiant Stadium.

John Saccenti, Las Vegas Bowl executive director, had these comments in a press release announcing the cancellation:

“Unfortunately we will have to wait another year to present the Las Vegas Bowl in its new home. This was a difficult decision but the right one considering that our game was founded nearly three decades ago to help drive tourism to the Entertainment Capital of the World during the month of December. We are looking forward to making our bowl week bigger and better than ever in 2021.”

With the change in the venue of the Las Vegas Bowl was supposed to come an upgraded matchup. In the past, the game invited a team from the Mountain West Conference. Now it will feature an also ran from the top conferences in college football. This year, it was supposed to be a Pac-12 Conference team against a Southeastern Conference team. The Big Ten is also in the mix for future incarnations of the game.

Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner, must have been on his way out the door when he jotted down this superficial statement about the Las Vegas Bowl cancellation:

“The Pac-12 is disappointed for our teams and fans that the Las Vegas Bowl has been forced to cancel this year’s game. We look forward to next year’s game, which promises to be a fantastic national stage in one of the world’s best football stadiums, to showcase Pac-12 football.”

There have been ten bowl games cancelled with more likely to come. This doesn’t count games that might have been ‘on the drawing board’ for 2020 but mothballed after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The bowl games that have been cancelled: the Bahamas Bowl, Celebration Bowl, Fenway Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Motor City Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, Redbox Bowl, Sun Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl.

Earlier today, two major bowl games announced that they’ll be played without fans this year. The Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl are scheduled for January 1 and January 2 respectively. The Rose Bowl will serve as one of the College Football Playoff semifinal games. Both games apparently sought approval to allow a limited number of fans but were denied.

The Rose Bowl is run by the Tournament of Roses and they sought special permission for a ‘limited number of fans’ or at least a ‘select number of guests’ of both teams. They might as well have not bothered–since Californians are on the verge of not being able to leave their homes without a dispensation from state or local government they were summarily denied due to the prevailing restrictions. From the tone of a statement released by David Eads, executive director and CEO of the Tournament of Roses, its sounds as if they were told that they were lucky to be having the game at all:

“While we are disappointed that the Rose Bowl Game will not be played in front of spectators, we are pleased that we are still able to hold the game this year, continuing the 100-year plus tradition of The Granddaddy of Them All. We continue to work closely with health department officials and the Rose Bowl Stadium to provide the safest possible environment for our game participants.”

The Fiesta Bowl at least got the governor’s office on board as it sought to allow a limited number of fans for the game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Unfortunately, an unnamed ‘local jurisdiction’ put the kibosh on the plan. The ‘local jurisdiction’ that shall remain nameless denied the request based on recommendations from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). Families of the teams playing will, however, be allowed to attend.

Executive director of the Fiesta Bowl Organization Mike Nealy tried to put a positive spin on the situation:

“While we are disappointed that the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will not have fans in the stadium to enjoy Bowl Season this year, we respect the decisions made by the local authorities. Our staff was incredibly diligent to put health and safety measures in place that earned the endorsement from the Governor’s Office for policies that aligned with recommendations for reducing COVID-19 transmission risk. Ultimately, we all need to do our part to ensure the health and safety of our community to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

For now, the Sugar Bowl–the other College Football Playoff Semifinal– and the Orange Bowl are planning to have fans in a ‘limited capacity’. Ditto the College Football Playoff Championship Game to be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

What will likely end up happening is that most of the ‘early’ college bowl games will wind up being cancelled. Most of the games on or after New Years Day will likely end up being played. The determination will probably come down to a game’s ability to pull its weight as a TV only product. The financial model of many bowls will make them untenable without a live gate. In a future article, we’ll talk about the economics of college football bowl games and how they’ll impact which ones get cancelled and which ones don’t.

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