Which College Bowl Games Have Been Canceled So Far?

Posted on December 14, 2020 - Last Updated on December 31, 2020

The year 2020 has robbed us of many things.

One of those is a full bowl season. So far, a group of lower- and mid-profile bowl games has already been canceled, and it seems there is a new cancellation each day.

As COVID-19 rages on, it is inevitable that additional bowl games will be cut.

It’s hard to keep up with which bowl games are still happening and which ones aren’t, so we did the work for you. Check in with PlayIndiana each week for the latest updates on games.

Canceled Bowl Games

Bowl GameConferencesVenue
Bahamas BowlC-USA vs. MACThomas Robinson Stadium - Nassau, Bahamas
Birmingham BowlACC vs. SECLegion Field Stadium - Birmingham, Alabama
Celebration BowlMEAC vs. SWACMercedes-Benz Stadium - Atlanta
Fenway BowlAAC vs. ACC Fenway Park - Boston
Frisco BowlAAC vs. at-largeToyota Stadium - Frisco, Texas
Gasparilla BowlMix of Power Five and Group of Five conferencesRaymond James Stadium - Tampa
Guaranteed Rate BowlBog 12 vs. Big TenChase Field - Phoenix
Hawaii BowlAAC or C-USA vs. Mountain WestAloha Stadium - Halawa, Hawaii
Holiday BowlACC vs. Pac-12SDCCU Stadium - San Diego
Independence BowlArmy vs. at-largeIndependence Stadium - Shreveport, Louisiana
Las Vegas BowlPac-12 vs. SECAllegiant Stadium - Paradise, Nevada
Los Angeles BowlPac-12 vs. Mountain WestSoFi Stadium - Los Angeles
Military BowlAAC vs. ACCNavy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium - Annapolis, Maryland
Music City BowlSEC vs. Big TenNissan Stadium - Nashville
Pinstripe BowlBig Ten vs. ACCYankee Stadium - Bronx, New York
Quick Lane BowlBig Ten vs. ACC or MACFord Field - Detroit
Redbox BowlBig Ten vs. Pac-12Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara, California
Sun BowlACC vs. Pac-12Sun Bowl - El Paso, Texas
Texas BowlSEC vs. Big 12NRG Stadium - Houston


Dec. 29: COVID-19 deals new blows to SEC

It’s already been a rough week for the SEC.

Two of its teams had bowl games canceled in recent days following COVID-19 outbreaks, bringing the total number of nixed bowl games this year to 19.

News broke Tuesday that the Texas Bowl between 6-4 TCU and 3-7 Arkansas had been canceled. The game was slated to be played on New Year’s Eve inside Houston’s NRG Stadium.

The decision to cancel was made following a series of positive COVID-19 tests and injuries within TCU’s program.

“Over the last 24 hours, between a combination of COVID-19 related issues, injuries and other circumstances, we have fallen below the established Big 12 Conference threshold for student-athlete availability that we have abided by all season,” said TCU AD Jeremiah Donati in a statement.

Two days earlier, on Sunday, Missouri announced it was pulling out of the Music City Bowl following a rash of COVID-19 cases within its program.

Missouri, which finishes its season 5-5, was slated to play 15th-ranked Iowa (6-2) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Wednesday.

Missouri AD Jim Sterk said an “eight-day uptick within our program is significant and has made it impossible for us to play in the bowl game.”

Other SEC teams to lose their bowl games due to COVID-19 include South Carolina and Tennessee.

Dec. 24: UAB misses out on bowl game with cancellation

The latest bowl cancellation nixes what was supposed to be a Boxing Day matchup between Conference-USA champions UAB and 2-8 South Carolina in the Gasparilla Bowl.

The game was canceled after South Carolina pulled out, citing concerns related to COVID-19.

“Between members of the coaching staff and student-athletes, COVID and contact tracing has taken a toll too high for us to overcome,” said South Carolina AD Ray Tanner in a statement.

The bowl game’s owner and operator, ESPN Events, was unable to find a replacement team to play UAB. The school has since announced the end of its season, indicating it will not seek an alternate option.

The day after Christmas is now slated to include three bowl games:

  • Cure Bowl: Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina (noon, ESPN)
  • SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Louisiana vs. UTSA (3:30 p.m., ABC)
  • LendingTree Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State (3:30 p.m., ESPN)

Christmas Day, meanwhile, offers one game, the Cameilla Bowl, between Marshall and Buffalo (2:30 p.m., ESPN).

Dec. 21: Opt-outs have significant effect on bowl season

The list of schools opting out of bowl games continues to grow.

Two of the most prominent examples to emerge in recent days are USC and Penn State.

USC’s decision came a day after its perfect season and chance at a Pac-12 title were upended by Oregon, ending the Trojans’ shot at a New Year’s Six game.

The disappointing defeat to two-loss Oregon was only possible following COVID-19 issues within the Washington program. The Huskies pulled out of the conference title game and have since opted out of bowl season.

USC said in a media release its decision to opt out followed discussions between its medical team and football leadership council. The program has experienced a rise in cases in recent days, according to the school.

“The physical and mental health and the safety of our student-athletes is paramount, and this season has been unimaginably taxing on our players in particular,” said USC AD Mike Bohn.

Penn State, meanwhile, capped a disappointing 4-5 year by removing itself from bowl contention. It was a choice made by the players, noted head coach James Franklin.

Opt-outs have also led to bowl cancellations, including the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. It is expected to return in 2021 with a game between the Big Ten and Big 12.

The Birmingham Bowl, a New Year’s Day game between the SEC and AAC, has also been canceled. The game’s executive director, Mark Meadows, cited a shrinking “inventory of available teams.”

Similar explanations were given for the Independence Bowl, which was canceled when an opponent couldn’t be found for a 9-2 Army team, and the Military Bowl, nixed when organizers couldn’t find an ACC team to play.

Army ran into luck Monday, however, when Tennessee opted out of the Liberty Bowl following a COVID-19 outbreak. The program will now face a 5-4 West Virginia team.

Other programs opting out include:

  • Arizona State
  • Boise State
  • Boston College
  • Florida State
  • Georgia Tech
  • Kansas State
  • Louisville
  • Maryland
  • Michigan State
  • Pittsburgh
  • San Diego State
  • SMU
  • Stanford
  • UCLA
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Virginia Tech
  • Washington State

Dec. 19: Busy day caps chaotic week of cancellations, replacements

Saturday represented the most important day so far of the chaotic 2020-2021 college football season, sporting conference championship matchups with enormous CFP implications.

It also capped what was another week filled with season-altering changes for programs across the nation.

Breaking early in the week was the cancellation of bowl season’s first game: the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl between SMU and UTSA. The game was canceled following COVID-19 tracing concerns at SMU.

UTSA will now play in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26 against an as-of-yet unknown opponent.

Bowl season’s first game is currently slated to be the Myrtle Beach Bowl on Dec. 21 between Appalachian State and North Texas.

This week also saw the controversial cancellation of the much anticipated Sun Belt championship game between Coastal Carolina and Louisiana. The two teams were honored as conference co-champions, although that won’t do much to allay frustration within two programs hoping to land a New Year’s Six bowl.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 created its own chaos, allowing two-loss Oregon to replace Washington in Friday’s championship game. The Ducks subsequently upset favored USC to land a conference championship and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, providing a fitting end to a bizarre season in the Pac-12.

Dec. 14: Current football bowl schedule from NCAA

While the college football bowl season remains unpredictable, the overall schedule seems pretty cemented.

Currently, games are scheduled to start on Saturday, Dec. 19 and go through the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, Jan. 11.

For now, the first bowl game of the season will be the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl that pits SMU vs. UTSA.

The game will take place at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

ESPN2 will air the matchup.

Dec. 10: Eleven bowl games already axed

The 2020 bowl schedule started with 43 games, including the CFP championship game. That figure has already been seriously reduced.

Here is a list of all bowl games that have been canceled, effective Dec. 10:

  • Bahamas Bowl (C-USA vs. MAC)
  • Celebration Bowl (MEAC vs. SWAC)
  • Fenway Bowl (AAC vs. ACC) (Replaced by Montgomery Bowl – at-large)
  • Hawaii Bowl (AAC or C-USA vs. Mountain West)
  • Holiday Bowl (ACC vs. Pac-12)
  • Las Vegas Bowl (Pac-12 vs. SEC)
  • Los Angeles Bowl (Pac-12 vs. Mountain West)
  • Pinstripe Bowl (Big Ten vs. ACC)
  • Quick Lane Bowl (Big Ten vs. ACC or MAC)
  • Redbox Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12)
  • Sun Bowl (ACC vs. Pac-12)

It’s worth noting another impact to bowl season: the lack of usual win requirements.

While bowl games typically stipulate that teams must have a certain amount of wins, or be .500, the NCAA decided to waive such requirements in 2020.

Now, Power 5 teams that previously never would have dreamed of a bowl game remain optimistic. Tie-ins pair their conference with bowl games.

But remember, each bowl game cancellation represents eliminated opportunities.

Three games involving the Big Ten have already been canceled. This is a disappointment for underperforming schools like Penn State, which was hoping to take advantage of this year’s gift from the NCAA regarding no win requirements.

Still, the Big Ten has five sponsored bowl games available. Plus, a strong finish by Indiana could put both the Hoosiers and Buckeyes (assuming they win the Big Ten) into a New Year’s Six bowl, leaving tie-in spots open for lower-ranked Big Ten teams.

Photo by Associated Press
George Myers Avatar
Written by
George Myers

George Myers is a writer with extensive experience in both news and sports reporting. He has primarily covered baseball and football, along with the intersection of sports and lawmaking.

View all posts by George Myers