The University of Hawai’i has been forced to bow out of playing in the Hawai’i Bowl, which was scheduled to kick off in its traditional Christmas Eve TV slot this evening on ESPN. The host school, which was to play Memphis in Honolulu, cited Covid issues within the football program and pulled out late Thursday night, forcing the cancellation.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is the most important part of this decision,” athletics director David Matlin said. “The recent surge in Covid-19 cases has forced us to not participate in the game. We are disappointed for our players, coaches, and fans. ESPN and the EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl staff did everything they could for us and we appreciate their valiant effort throughout the week. We want to thank the Memphis Tigers for making the long trip to Hawai’i. We are disappointed we can’t compete on the football field.”
This becomes the second bowl game to be impacted by the Omicron variant hitting college football programs. Last week, Texas A&M, citing similar roster depletions caused by Covid cases and year-end player departures, withdrew from the Gator Bowl, which is set for December 31 in Jacksonville, FL, on ESPN and is one of three bowl games scheduled for New Year’s Eve day. Rutgers has since stepped in and the game will go on.
The NCAA has said that any bowl game can move to as late as January 10 if the schools involved need additional time to prepare, and last week reiterated it can select 5-7 schools as potential fill-ins if needed, with selections based on academic performance.
College football’s national championship game is scheduled for January 10 in Indianapolis.
All sports have been hit by the new wave of Covid variant, with the NHL opting to start its Christmas break early because of infections impacting several teams. The NFL had to move three games on its schedule into weekday kickoffs this week, while college basketball has seen several postponements or cancellations.
The NBA has seen multiple Covid cases impact rosters, with five games still scheduled as planned for Christmas Day on ABC and ESPN. The NFL has two games on Christmas Day.