Texas A&M has suspended football operations and bowl practice but TaxSlayer Gator Bowl 'still a go'

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Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher is scheduled to participate in his third TaxSlayer Gator Bowl with two programs, the Aggies and Florida State.
Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher is scheduled to participate in his third TaxSlayer Gator Bowl with two programs, the Aggies and Florida State.

UPDATE -- A&M out: Texas A&M opts out of TaxSlayer Gator Bowl; alternate opponent sought for Wake Forest

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl president Greg McGarity confirmed reports on Tuesday that Texas A&M football operations and bowl practice have been shut down since Saturday due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program.

But he said the game on Dec. 31 against Wake Forest at TIAA Bank Field "is still a go."

TexAgs.com first reported that an outbreak hit “mainly vaccinated athletes,” and multiple position groups had been hit “particularly hard.” The team is still conducting meetings on a virutal basis.

The Aggies, who will face Wake Forest, are due to arrive in Jacksonville for bowl preparation on Dec. 26. The Deacons are scheduled to report a day later.

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Requests for comment from Texas A&M associate athletic director of communications and assistant A.D. for football communications Brad Marquardt via email and phone message were not immediately returned.

Later Tuesday, associate athletic director Alan Cannon told the Dallas Morning News that the Aggies have “paused in-person activities since Sunday, due to COVID-19.”

McGarity said Texas A&M officials are keeping him in the loop.

"We've been made aware of those concerns," he said. "If there are any issues, we'll find out as soon as possible."

McGarity said there has been no discussion yet about the game being in jeopardy.

"Everything is still a go," he said.

A spokesman for Wake Forest said their program is not experiencing any COVID-19 issues and is practicing this week according to schedule.

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Ten bowl games have already been played since last Friday and two more are scheduled for Tuesday, in Boise, Idaho, and Frisco, Texas.

Last year, 17 bowl games were canceled because of the pandemic, and 22 teams opted out of bowls. Among them were the Music City, Holiday and Sun Bowls.

The Gator Bowl was played, with Kentucky beating N.C. State 23-21. Only 25 percent of the stadium seats were allowed to be sold.

McGarity said current plans are for TIAA Bank Field to remain operating at full capacity, as it has for the Jaguars home games and Florida-Georgia this season.

McGarity said college football is operating under the same challenges as pro sports given the recent spike in the virus, especially the Omicron variant. Alabama coach Nick Saban announced on Tuesday that his program is going back to stricter measures, such as masks worn by everyone within the facilities.

"I think every school is being cautious," he said. "There is a concern on every campus, just as there is with every team in the NFL, NBA and NHL. College athletics is not immune to these issues and they're all dealing with it the best way they can. It's an ever-changing landscape."

Texas A&M was already short-handed entering bowl week, with the loss of players such as quarterback Zach Calzada, running back Isaiah Spiller, tight end Jaylen Wydermyer, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, and defensive back Leon O'Neal to either injuries or opting out of the bowl game for the NFL draft.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Texas A&M suspends bowl practice nine ahead of TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

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