Army left out in Bowl Day marred by cancellations, opt outs
At a time when team after team had withdrawn from bowl games, Army found itself in a different situation - left out.
The Black Knights have a 9-2 record and a nearly two-month commitment to the Independence Bowl. They all seemed ready. But when the game in Louisiana on December 26th was canceled on Sunday evening because no team was available, it suddenly left the Army outside the postseason landscape.
One glimmer of hope remains: the Black Knights could stand in line in case a bowl-tied team deals with COVID-19 issues.
"These young men haven't quit all year and we certainly won't quit now," said Mike Buddie, the Army's director of athletics, in a statement. "You better deserve it. Period."
What is usually a happy day for more than 60 teams across the country was far more surreal when the organizers set the annual bowl schedule two weeks later than usual. Well below the headlines of Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Clemson, the scramble was strange - and, in the case of the Army, painful.
This just adds an insult: with the Bowl contracts still in place, a South Carolina team goes to the Gasparilla Bowl with a sad 2-8 record.
By the end of the season, more than 20 Bowl Subdivivion teams decided not to accept an invitation to a bowl and called for the end of this long season. This created the unusual situation that postseason games didn't have enough teams to fill the slots.
"It's been a difficult day for all of college football," said Nick Carparelli, executive director of Bowl Season, the renamed Football Bowl Association. "We would probably have been naive to believe that, given the challenges everyone has gone through this year, that wouldn't have been the case."
Perhaps Minnesota's coach P.J. Fleck it best in a nutshell to explain why his team opted out.
“The school is ready. Nothing to do. Nowhere, "said Fleck, whose gophers announced that after 3-4 they'd finished with two rejections." Are you talking about 11 days in which you did something? Sit there, do nothing. It's like doing nothing but football in the hours we're allowed to. Then also have packed lunches. Breakfast in boxes. Boxed diners. And that will be unforgettable? "
This seemed almost perfect to sum up what the teams went through all season: UTSA was scheduled to play at the Frisco Bowl over the weekend when the SMU pulled out and the bowl was scrubbed over COVID-19 concerns. Therefore, UTSA accepted an invitation to the First Responder Bowl, where the Roadrunners found out on Sunday that they would face Louisiana-Lafayette No. 16.
This is the typical game book in '20 - plan, keep your fingers crossed, and have a viable backup plan.
Like the Montgomery Bowl, which will serve as a replacement for the canceled Fenway Bowl this season and shows Memphis against Florida Atlantic.
The NCAA waived bowl approval requirements this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which explains why the state of Michigan announced it would be opting out - at 2-5, no less. On the other hand, Mike Leach and his 3-7 Mississippi State Squad go to the Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa No. 22.
Nobody has worked harder for it this season than Nebraska. On the day the bowl was selected, the Cornhuskers (3-5) decided to end the season.
"This year has been a long time and it's time for our boys to take a break," Nebraska coach Scott Frost said in a statement.
Nebraska joined a long list of teams who decided that enough was enough, including Arizona State, Boise State, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Louisville, Penn State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, SMU, Southern California, Stanford , UCLA, Utah, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington. For the Hokies, the decision ended a run of 27 straight bowl games.
Some of the canceled bowl games - 15 total, including three on Sunday alone - included the Bahamas Bowl, Celebration Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, LA Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, and Quick Lane Bowl , the Redbox Bowl and the Sun Bowl.
The Military Bowl stayed pending late Sunday, despite Executive Director Steve Beck expressing an interest in providing Army with an after-season home: "We'd love to host @ArmyWP_Football in the #MilitaryBowl ... just have to find an opponent!"
Trainers across the country have been understanding. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin listened to his players on Sunday morning when they decided to call it a year.
"The 2020 season wasn't easy. It goes back to summer, the postponement and return of our season and then the weekly ups and downs in dealing with COVID," team captains Khalil Shakir, Riley Whimpey and Avery Williams said in a joint statement. "We gave everything we had for each other and for Bronco Nation this season and are proud that we made it to a championship game despite the challenges. Now is the time for all of us to get well and get on." To focus in 2021. "
AP College Football writer Ralph D. Russo, along with AP Sports writers Dave Campbell and Tim Booth, contributed to this report.
More AP College Football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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