When it was reported last Wednesday that the Miami Hurricanes wouldn’t arrive in El Paso for the Sun Bowl until the day before the game because of a Covid outbreak on their team, it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine the Hurricanes eventually backing out all together — and that’s exactly what they did on Sunday.
Mere hours after the Washington State Cougars touched down in west Texas ...
Ready for a week of celebrations #GoCougs | @TonyTheTigerSB pic.twitter.com/hzyFl6eMrN— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) December 27, 2021
... the Hurricanes announced they were withdrawing from the game — which was scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. PT — leaving WSU without an opponent in its bowl game. For the time being, at least.
“Due to the number of COVID-19 cases impacting our roster we do not have enough student-athletes to safely compete, and the health and safety of our student-athletes will always be our top priority,” deputy director of athletics Jennifer Strawley said in a statement.
WSU responded as diplomatically as possible.
“It is disappointing news that the University of Miami is unable to participate in the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl,” WSU athletics director Pat Chun said in a statement. “We will work with the Pac-12 Conference and the Sun Bowl Association to hopefully find a replacement opponent for the game.”
Of course, that’s where it gets tricky. To find a replacement at this late stage, you’ve got to find a team that isn’t just willing to play on five days’ notice, but actually able. In that case, you’re probably looking at a team who also had its opponent drop out of its bowl game. That leaves three options: SMU (canceled Fenway Bowl), East Carolina (canceled Military Bowl ), and Memphis (canceled Hawaii Bowl). Just thinking logically about logistics, SMU seems most likely to fit the bill, but we’ll see if it works out.
For his part, WSU coach Jake Dickert wants to make it clear that the Cougs absolutely want to play a football game.
Our team is in El Paso and willing to play any opponent. Our team just wants one more chance to finish this storied 2021 season. #GoCougs https://t.co/uzr2fIzPeL— Jacob Dickert (@CoachDickert) December 27, 2021
This latest Covid wave has disrupted sports in a major way, and the Sun Bowl is the fifth postseason college football game to be affected. Three games have been canceled and a replacement was found for Texas A&M after the Aggies pulled out of the Gator Bowl.
If the Sun Bowl is unable to find a replacement, the Cougars will end the season 7-5. But at least we got the traditional shot of WSU coach in a sombrero!
¡Bienvenidos a El Paso! #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/5oZIPLLYMe— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) December 26, 2021
Well, at least the Sun Bowl gave us this adorable moment of Jake Dickert dancing with his daughter Rylee. pic.twitter.com/xHrnmRLMSk— Brenna Greene (@BrennaGreene_) December 27, 2021
Welcome to the club, Coach Dickert.