The game cancellations have now reached bowl season.
The first bowl game of the year, the Frisco Bowl, was set to kick off on Saturday in a matchup between UTSA and SMU. However, the game has now been canceled due to COVID-19 cases in the SMU program.
“While we are disappointed in having to cancel the game, our top priority is the health and safety of all parties involved,” said Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events. “We wish SMU, their student-athletes, coaches and administrators well during this time.”
SMU said Tuesday that it has “identified a number of positive cases of COVID-19 involving student-athletes and staff members,” causing it to withdraw from the bowl game. The school also has football players in isolation after being identified as close contacts to those who have tested positive. As a result, the team would have been unable to practice this week and play in Saturday’s game.
"Our team deserved to play another game. I'm disappointed for our fans, and even more disappointed for our players, that we will be unable to play in a bowl game this season,” SMU athletic director Rick Hart said. “I'm also sad that many of our seniors played their final collegiate games, not knowing at the time that that was their last time on the field. I want to applaud our team for their efforts this season and to acknowledge the personal sacrifices they all made to make this season possible.”
SMU’s last game against Houston on Dec. 5 was canceled due to contact tracing within the program. SMU also lost a game against TCU in September.
"While I wish our guys had been able to finish the year in the celebratory manner they deserved, the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff remain our top priority and this is a tough, but necessary, decision that had to be made," SMU head coach Sonny Dykes said. "I'm proud of our players and staff for being ready to play for 13 straight weeks during the regular season. That was a monumental accomplishment and took an incredible amount of discipline and commitment to each other and our football program.”
In all, SMU was able to play 10 games this season and went 7-3.
"This senior class will be forever remembered for helping to usher in a new era of Mustang Football. They won 17 games over the last two seasons and have been the winningest team in the state of Texas over that time. I'm appreciative and so proud of their accomplishments. We all owe them a great debt of gratitude,” Dykes said.
UTSA finds new bowl game
With the Frisco Bowl canceled, UTSA subsequently accepted an invitation to play in the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26 in Dallas. Coincidentally, the First Responder Bowl is played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on SMU’s campus. The Roadrunners’ opponent for the game has yet to be announced.
"We are very grateful to ESPN Events, the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl and Conference USA for coordinating another bowl game opportunity for us on short notice," UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos said. "We're very excited that Coach [Jeff] Traylor, his staff and our student-athletes will get to represent our wonderful university and city on national television. I also want to thank the Frisco Bowl staff for all of their hard work in planning for that game in a very short timeframe. We hope we will get to experience one of their bowl games in the future."
This is the second bowl game in UTSA’s history. The school began playing football in 2011 and joined the FBS in 2013 and previously played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2016. UTSA lost to New Mexico, 23-20.
UTSA, in its first season under Traylor, posted a 7-5 overall record this season that included a 6-2 mark in C-USA play.
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