Military Bowl in Annapolis is canceled due to a lack of available teams
By TIM SCHWARTZ | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: December 21, 2020
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — There will be no Military Bowl Dec. 28 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The bowl made the announcement Monday morning.
Steve Beck, president and executive director of the Military Bowl, said last week it planned to forge ahead with the game without fans and with a virtual parade, but on Monday he said the bowl was forced to cancel as it could not get an Atlantic Coast Conference team to play.
"While so many people worked tirelessly to make this year's Military Bowl happen, this is an incredibly disappointing step to take," Beck wrote in a news release.
"We fully expected to have a game, and with the ACC and with Notre Dame going to the College Football Playoffs, that left us without an ACC team," Beck told The Capital Monday. "Our contract was with the ACC, so anything else that would happen would've been outside the contract. We haven't been able to get anything. There are not any teams available to play."
Beck said not having the game, which was set to broadcast at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN next Monday, "is terribly disappointing."
"Our mission and what we try to do as a bowl and as a community, it's just a terrible situation, but you know these are terrible times," he said. "We're not the only bowl game. I'm not sure what the number is up to now but it's a lot that are not playing."
Numerous college football programs, including Maryland, Penn State, USC, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Pitt and others, have opted not to play in bowl games amid the pandemic, which has left several bowls without teams.
"It's happening all over the country," Beck said. "It's a sign of the times we're in with this virus running all over the place. So many teams have backed out of bowl games."
Tulsa, an American Athletic Conference team that seemed destined for the Military Bowl after losing to Cincinnati on Saturday, instead accepted a bid Sunday night to play Mississippi State in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.
Beck said they were planning to offer Virginia Tech a bid but the Hokies opted out of playing a bowl game on Wednesday, ending their 27-year run of bowl appearances. He said they were the one team that if they had opted to play "we would have still had a ballgame." Virginia Tech has played in the Military Bowl three times, the last in 2018.
"But with them electing not to play and with Notre Dame going up [to the College Football Playoff], it left us without an ACC team available for us," Beck said.
Beck said conversations about trying to find a team outside of the ACC were ongoing for about a week but "we haven't been able to work anything out."
On Sunday, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix), Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.) and Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.), which was set to have Army face a Pac-12 team, were also canceled.
The Redbox Bowl (Santa Clara, Calif.), Hawaii Bowl (Halawa, Hi.), Bahamas Bowl (Nassau), Holiday Bowl (San Diego, Calif.), Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit), Pinstripe Bowl (New York City), Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas) and Fenway Bowl (Boston) canceled before Sunday.
The Military Bowl has been played each year since 2008 and was moved to Annapolis from Washington, D.C. in 2013.
Since 2014, the game has featured teams from the AAC and ACC. Navy has played in the contest three times but did not get a bid after losing to Army on Dec. 12 and finishing 3-7.
Most of the supporting sponsors had either pulled out or reduced their financial commitment because a significant amount of visibility comes as part of game, Beck said last week. He added upwards of 50 to 60% of revenue comes from ticket sales.
North Carolina and Temple, last year's participants, split a $2,066,990 payout, and Beck said the payout this time would've been less. He said the Military Bowl had elected to play to give more student-athletes an opportunity to play.
Beck said the virtual parade will go as scheduled and they are still honoring Bud Heroes. Last week, Loyola Blakefield senior Jordan Moore and Old Mill Middle School South seventh grader Noah Bailey were chosen as this year's winners of the 3M Play to Win Award presented by the Military Bowl and 3M.
Beck said the Military Bowl will be back "bigger and better than ever next year."
"While this year's game will not happen, the Military Bowl remains committed to its mission," Beck wrote in the news release. "In addition to raising awareness for our nation's service men and women, the Bowl also has donated more than $1 million for the USO and founded and operates a first-class retreat for recovering service members, their families and caregivers at Patriot Point."
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