Bowl Season Comes Crashing Down In Tennessee

Posted on December 30, 2020

College football’s regular season may be coming to a close, but COVID-19 is still raring to go.

The pandemic strikes yet again, cancelling one postseason bowl game after another.

Most recently, the Tennessee Vols withdrew from the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Nashville’s Music City Bowl is also canceled.

Tennessee pulls out of the Liberty Bowl game

Tennessee was scheduled to travel to Memphis this Thursday to play West Virginia in college football’s final game of the year.

The Vols accepted the bowl invitation Sunday, Dec. 20 after conducting league-required COVID-19 tests that morning.

It wasn’t until Monday morning that results came back. Multiple Vols players, staff members, and head coach Jeremy Pruitt all had positive tests.

Players and staff members took additional tests to verify results and begin contact tracing.

Many players and personnel joined the reserve/COVID-19 list after the tests, putting a sudden end to postseason play.

Despite Vols setbacks, the Liberty Bowl will go on.

Army, with its 9-2 record, will take Tennessee’s spot in the game.

The University of Tennessee responded with a statement:

“The student-athletes and staff affected are taking the appropriate safety measures in accordance with University, CDC and local health department guidelines. The University of Tennessee extends its sincere appreciation to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the city of Memphis and is disappointed it will not be able to fulfill its commitment on New Year’s Eve.”

Tennessee’s encounters with COVID-19 have been season-long.

Most recently, the Vols faced off against Texas A&M this past Saturday. Assistant coaches Jay Graham and Derrick Ansley missed the game due to COVID-19 concerns. Tennessee lost 34-13, wrapping its regular season up with a 3-7 record.

Tennessee wasn’t the first SEC team to cancel a bowl game appearance due to COVID-19-related issues.

Announcements from Missouri and South Carolina also came this week.

Nashville’s Music City Bowl Canceled

The Music City Bowl – scheduled to be played in Nashville – was canceled on Sunday. The matchup pitted the Missouri Tigers against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday.

Iowa paused practices last week, which put the game in jeopardy. Ultimately, COVID-19 reared its head again, forcing Missouri to resign from play and pause all team activities until Jan. 2.

Missouri also had to reschedule 8 of its 11 season games, resulting in a final 5-5 record for the team.

Iowa concluded the season with a 6-2 record, playing all of its regular-season events. It wasn’t until its championship weekend Big Ten game versus Michigan and the proceeding bowl game that problems arose.

It’s been hard to keep up with the amount of canceled bowl games since lineups came out on Dec. 20. The Gasparilla Bowl featuring South Carolina and UAB was one of the first to go.

A grand total of 18 bowl games have been canceled this year.

Overall, the 2020 regular season saw 139 postponed or canceled events.

The pandemic has also interrupted countless other college sports. The Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team along with the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team have postponed recent games.

The Tennessee Vols men’s basketball team will have to evade infection to retain its top seed in the Southeastern Conference and lead the college to a championship appearance.

Photo by Associated Press
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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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