Music City Bowl canceled due to COVID-19 issues at Missouri

Sam Cooper

Another bowl game has been called off.

Missouri announced Sunday that it will be unable to play No. 15 Iowa in the Music City Bowl due to COVID-19 issues within its program. The school said that positive tests surfaced among players, coaches and staff following the team’s regular-season finale against Mississippi State. As a result, all team activities must be paused through Jan. 2.

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said the increase in positive tests over the last eight days is “significant” and has “made it impossible” for the Tigers to play in the bowl game. The game was scheduled to be played on Dec. 30 in Nashville.

According to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, Missouri had nearly 20 positive tests between players and staff within the last week.

“Since concluding our regular season and conducting four rounds of tests over the last eight days, we have seen a significant increase in positive COVID-19 tests among our student-athletes, coaches and staff, and after consulting with local health officials, our team physicians and MU Health’s Dr. Steve Whitt, who is our representative on the SEC Medical Task Force, we unfortunately must pause all football team-related activities until at least January 2 to help contain the virus’ spread and ensure the health and well-being of everyone within our program and the community,” Sterk said.

Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz talks with quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) during the second half against LSU on Oct. 10, 2020, in Columbia, Missouri. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz talks with quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) during the second half against LSU on Oct. 10, 2020, in Columbia, Missouri. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Missouri’s roster had already been depleted due to COVID-19 cases, opt-outs and injuries. Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said after the 51-32 loss to Mississippi State that the team was down to just 52 players. That loss gave Missouri a 5-5 record for the 2020 season, its first under Drinkwitz.

“I am disappointed that we were not able to finish the season against a tremendous opponent in the Music City Bowl later this week,” Drinkwitz said. “I am extremely proud of the fight and resiliency that our players have shown throughout this challenging season. This is the eighth time in 11 games we’ve been faced with a schedule adjustment, but we’ve been able to fight through and finish while competing at a very high level throughout the season, which I believe shows the true character of our team. We look forward to returning to Nashville to play in a future Music City Bowl, and experiencing all that this great bowl game offers.”

According to Thamel, there were discussions about Iowa potentially finding a replacement for Missouri. However, because the cancellation happened just a few days before the game was scheduled to be played, it would have been too difficult.

Iowa has also had COVID-19 issues in recent weeks. The Hawkeyes paused football activities last week but were able to resume practice on Saturday. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was among those who tested positive.

With the bowl game off the table. Iowa finishes 2020 with a 6-2 record. The Hawkeyes started 0-2 but won their final six games.

“We are extremely disappointed to have our season end today. This is a remarkable group of players and men, and it has been an honor to coach them,” Ferentz said. “This has been a very special team. We have overcome several challenges together during a season like no other. I am incredibly proud of this entire team and saddened that we will not have one more chance to get out and compete together.

“Finally, I want to thank everyone within our program, players and parents, coaching staff and medical staff, and our fans for their support throughout this season.”

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