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Three bowl games canceled in two days as Covid outbreaks continue to plague college football

Boise State is the latest team to pull out of a post-season contest, scuttling the Arizona Bowl, but saving the Sun Bowl, as Central Michigan is now set for a trip to El Paso.
Image: Sun Bowl Stadium
Sun Bowl Stadium, in El Paso, Texas.Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune via AP file

The Arizona Bowl was canceled Monday night - the third post-season college football game to be scuttled in about 24 hours - as Covid-19 outbreaks continued to wreak havoc on the sport.

The game, set for Friday in Tucson, was to have featured Boise State and Central Michigan before the Broncos announced they couldn't travel due to Covid-19 outbreak within their program.

A short time later, organizers of the Barstool Arizona Bowl pulled the plug.

The sudden cancellation was fortuitous for organizers of Friday's Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, who quickly scooped up opponent-less Central Michigan.

Now the Chippewas will travel 4 1/2 hours east on Interstate 10 to El Paso and play in the one of the nation's oldest bowl games, which had appeared doomed just a day earlier.

The University of Miami announced Sunday night that its Hurricanes would not travel to El Paso because of a Covid outbreak.

The Sun Bowl has been played since 1935 and is one the nation's four oldest bowl games.

The New Year's Eve contest had appeared to be in danger of cancellation for a second year in row, as Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas told NBC affiliate KTSM on Sunday: "As far as a backup plan, because we are where we are, we don’t have one right now."

Central Michigan is now set to play Washington State, with kickoff at 10 a.m. MT on Friday in El Paso. The Cougars are coached by  Jake Dickert, who took over mid-season after his predecessor, Nick Rolovich, was fired for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Washington State Athletic Director Pat Chun thanked Sun Bowl organizers and Central Michigan officials for acting fast.

"We are grateful for the diligent work of the Sun Bowl Association, the Pac-12 Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Central Michigan University to ensure the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will be played," Chun said in a statement.

Before Miami bowed out of the Sun Bowl on Sunday, the Military Bowl and Wasabi Fenway Bowl were both called off because of Covid-19 issues.

Boston College was unable to field enough players to take on East Carolina in the Military Bowl, which had been set for a Monday afternoon kickoff at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

An outbreak on the University of Virginia's football team prevented the Cavaliers from traveling to Boston, where they were set to play SMU in the Fenway Bowl. The game would have been played Wednesday in Fenway Park, the historic baseball stadium.

The Hawaii Bowl was called off Thursday after Hawaii backed out of its game against Memphis on the eve of the contest due to Covid-19 and injuries.

Last week, the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl was threatened after Texas A&M had to pull out as injuries and players placed in Covid-19 protocol ravaged the Aggies roster.

Gator Bowl organizers filled A&M's spot with Rutgers, which was 5-7 overall this season and had a 2-7 Big Ten record, good for next-to-last place in the Big Ten's East Division standings.

The semifinals of the College Football Playoff are set for Friday, ahead of the title game now set for Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

With Covid-19 cases spiking across the country because of the omicron variant, CFP officials conceded last week that teams could advance to the final, or one even declared a champion, by Covid forfeits.