The Sun Bowl was in search of a replacement team. Central Michigan University’s football squad was nearby, and in search of a replacement game.
CMU has agreed to fill in and face Washington State in the Sun Bowl, which kicks off 9 a.m. Friday in El Paso, Texas.
The bowl game distributed a news release Monday evening announcing the development.
“With the COVID-19 situation around the country affecting Bowl Season, College Football and air travel, another team having issues fielding a team has given life to the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl,” the release reads.
The Chippewas, from the Mid-American Conference, were originally slated to meet Boise State on New Year’s Eve in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson, but the Broncos backed out of the game at about noon Monday because of COVID-19 issues in their program. It’s the fourth bowl game scrapped because of COVID.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the Sun Bowl and WSU were left scrambling for a substitute opponent when the University of Miami’s program withdrew from the contest, citing coronavirus-caused roster limitations.
The Sun Bowl Association saw an opportunity after Boise State’s opt-out and moved quickly, working with the MAC and Arizona Bowl to have CMU released from its postseason obligations in the desert, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger.
The Chippewas (8-4) arrived in Tucson on Sunday night. They’ll make the 300-mile trip east down Interstate 10 to El Paso.
Sun Bowl officials had reportedly been phoning several potential replacement teams since Miami announced its decision to withdraw Sunday. But the options were slim — most college football programs had already left for winter break.
It became clear Monday morning that it’d be “Central Michigan or bust” for the Cougs in the Sun Bowl, per Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, who also tweeted that the game “can’t be pushed back a day or two (because) WSU players have flights home.”
The Arizona Bowl reportedly attempted to find a substitute for BSU throughout Monday afternoon. Some speculated that the Cougars might consider taking Boise State’s spot in Tucson.
But the Sun Bowl carries more prestige and boasts a significantly higher payout. The 88th annual Sun Bowl will be broadcast on CBS and reward its competitors approximately $4.55 million total.
The seventh edition of the Arizona Bowl was scheduled to stream on YouTube and Barstool Sports, and distribute a combined $350,000 to its participants.
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