Teams opting out of bowls in 2020: Boise State's season is done

Nick Bromberg and Sam Cooper
·8-min read

Boise State is not going to a bowl in 2020.

The Broncos lost to San Jose State in the Mountain West championship game on Saturday to fall to 5-2. Sunday, the team said it would be opting out of a bowl game.

"We met with our captains this morning, and after discussions with the rest of the team, we felt it was in the best interest of our program and of the well-being of our student-athletes, both physically and mentally, to forego a bowl game this year," Boise State coach BryanHarsin said. "These young men have been through a lot this season. COVID protocols required them to be away from their families for most of the season, and they understandably want to go home and be with their families for the holidays. When they return to campus we will begin preparations for a championship season in 2021.”

Had Boise State won it would have gone to the Arizona Bowl. It was still likely to get a good bowl spot after the loss but the team decided to decline that opportunity.

Penn State calls the season good

Penn State’s ending the season on a win streak.

The Nittany Lions announced Saturday after beating Illinois that they wouldn’t be going to a bowl game. PSU beat the Illini 56-21 to move to 4-5 after starting the season with a five-game losing streak.

"I couldn't be more proud and encouraged by how our team conducted itself during this unprecedented season. One of our four core values is a willingness to sacrifice, and our student-athletes, coaches and staff have all made incredible sacrifices both on and off the field in order for us to compete this year," Penn State coach James Franklin said in a statement. "This has been a challenging nine months, but we are proud of how our student-athletes have navigated these difficult times. As you know, we rely on our captains and Leadership Council to provide a voice for our team, and our student-athletes made the difficult choice not to participate in a bowl this year in order to spend time with loved ones. We are fully supportive of their decision, knowing it has been many months since our students-athletes have been able to spend time with their families and the challenges they endured, both physically and mentally. This will be an opportunity for our guys to go home, see family and recharge for the spring semester."

PSU is the first Big Ten team to officially opt-out of a bowl game and there will likely be more teams making the same decision.

USC ends 2020 at 5-1

Another Pac-12 team has opted out of a bowl game.

USC became the highest-profile Pac-12 team to say it won’t go to a bowl. The Trojans made the announcement Saturday night, a day after losing to Oregon for the Pac-12 title.

USC entered the game at No. 13 and had been undefeated. The Trojans were in line for an Alamo Bowl bid after the loss but are now choosing to let players be with their families over the holiday season as COVID-19 cases had risen among members of the team.

"I am incredibly inspired by our players and the sacrifices they made these past six months to play the game that they love," USC coach Clay Helton said in a statement. "They did everything we asked of them to abide by the challenging guidelines they had to follow to stay safe and well, whether it was daily testing or keeping distant from family and friends or training in less-than-ideal ways. It has not been easy, and it is hard for anyone outside the program to understand how immensely difficult these past few months have been for them. We all share the desire to stay healthy and be with loved ones during the holidays and I fully support this collective decision. I thank our players for their remarkable efforts. We are all disappointed by how our season ended, but I am extremely proud of our players and it is an honor to be their coach."

USC will finish the season at 5-1. Oregon will likely go to the Fiesta Bowl as the Pac-12 champion.

Utah is done

Utah won’t be going to a bowl game.

The Utes announced Friday that it would be the latest Pac-12 team to skip a bowl game in 2020. Utah is 2-2 and would be bowl eligible with a win over Washington State on Saturday. The school said in its statement that the team’s players decided against playing in a bowl game.

"Our number one priority is the well-being of our players, and we support the decision they have made," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. "They have worked extremely hard since they returned to campus this summer, and they have shown tremendous resiliency in dealing with adversity and challenges. We're proud of what they have accomplished on the field and the way they have handled everything off the field. We look forward to beginning our preparations for the 2021 season when the players return to campus in January."

Utah joins UCLA and Stanford as Pac-12 teams that have said they won’t pursue bowl games. The Pac-12 has been the conference most affected by bowl cancellations as games like the LA Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Redbox Bowl have been called off this season.

UCLA opts out

UCLA has decided to finish up its season this weekend when it hosts Stanford.

The school announced Thursday that it will decline any bowl invitation it may receive. It was a decision made by the players on the team.

"I'm so proud of our student-athletes for how they've conducted themselves this season in order to be able to play the game they love. It's a tremendous credit to them that we have played every weekend so far," said UCLA AD Martin Jarmond.

Added head coach Chip Kelly: "We are a player-led team, and we listened to our players when it came to making this decision. Our guys have given everything they've had to this season, and I've been so impressed by the maturity and selflessness they've shown.

UCLA enters Saturday’s game with a 3-3 record.

Kansas State pauses workouts, won't go to a bowl game

Kansas State said on Wednesday that it had paused all football activities due to COVID-19 and wouldn’t be accepting a bowl bid.

“This has been an unbelievably challenging year for everyone, but we were very excited to have the opportunity to end the season in a bowl game,” Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor said. “But, with new positive cases and additional close contacts in our program, we would not have enough players to continue practices and field a team for the bowl game. I want to thank our student-athletes and coaches for their tireless effort this year and for being flexible during a time when every day presented new challenges.”

Kansas State will end the season at 4-6. The Wildcats would have likely gone to a bowl game thanks to the pandemic-induced NCAA rule that allows teams below .500 to accept bowl invitations.

K-State’s announcement came on the same day that Virginia Tech said it wouldn’t be going to a bowl game. Tech’s announcement means the school’s 27-year bowl streak is ending.

Stanford ends its season

Stanford will not be playing in a bowl game in 2020.

The school announced Sunday that it wouldn’t go to a bowl after its season concludes against UCLA on Saturday. Stanford is 3-2 after beating Oregon State on Saturday night and would likely have been selected for a bowl game no matter the outcome of the UCLA game.

But Stanford said that it didn’t want to play in a bowl game since the team hasn’t been on campus since Dec. 1. Stanford has been forced to practice and play outside of Santa Clara County due to its COVID-19 restrictions. The Cardinal will practice in Santa Barbara ahead of the UCLA game and then return to campus after Saturday’s game.

Stanford is the first Pac-12 school to say it’s refusing a bowl invitation. Teams do not need to have a certain number of wins to be picked for a bowl game in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boston College was the first school to refuse a bowl invite when it said earlier in the week that it wasn’t going to go to a bowl. It was joined by fellow ACC teams Pitt and Virginia over the weekend as both schools said that they wouldn’t be accepting bowl invitations.

Pitt assistant coach Charlie Partridge tweeted Saturday that a significant majority of Pitt players wanted to (understandably) spend the holiday season with their families after the pandemic-impacted season.

Schools opting out of bowl games

  • Boston College

  • Georgia Tech

  • Pitt

  • Virginia

  • Stanford

  • Virginia Tech

  • Kansas State

  • Louisville

  • UCLA

  • Utah

  • USC

  • San Diego State

  • Penn State

  • Washington State

  • Arizona State

  • Minnesota

A Stanford helmet.
The Cardinal have not practiced in California since November due to Santa Clara County's COVID-19 restrictions. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

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