College football’s Christmas Eve tradition has been axed for a second consecutive year.
Hawaii said Thursday night that it would be unable to play in Friday’s Hawaii Bowl because of COVID-19 cases within the team. The Warriors were set to host Memphis. The Tigers have already traveled to Hawaii for the game.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is the most important part of this decision,” Hawaii athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has forced us to not participate in the game. We are disappointed for our players, coaches, and fans. ESPN and the EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl staff did everything they could for us and we appreciate their valiant effort throughout the week. We want to thank the Memphis Tigers for making the long trip to Hawai’i. We are disappointed we can’t compete on the football field.”
Hawaii’s inability to participate in the game meant it was officially canceled given the logistics of getting an opponent to play Memphis on such short notice. The game was set to be played at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.
Hawaii is the second team to have to back out of a bowl game because of COVID-19 cases this week. Texas A&M announced Wednesday that it wouldn’t compete in the Gator Bowl. Thursday, Rutgers was announced as A&M’s replacement to play Wake Forest. Rutgers finished 5-7 and was the top alternate for a bowl game because of the team’s academic progress rate.
Hawaii finished the season at 6-7 and was eligible for a bowl game despite having a losing record. The Warriors’ bowl eligibility helped force the creation of Thursday’s Frisco Football Classic between North Texas and Miami (Ohio). The game, won by Miami, allowed every team with six wins to get selected for a bowl game in 2021.