EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After COVID-19 forced Boise State to pull out of their upcoming Arizona Bowl game, Central Michigan will replace Miami and play Washington State in the 88th annual Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game this Friday.
KTSM 9 Sport Anchor Colin Deaver first reported the news on Monday evening.
The announcement regarding Boise State was made Monday afternoon on social media, as Barstool Arizona Bowl officials announced that the Broncos would not have enough players for Friday’s game.
Sun Bowl officials said that CMU would arrive in El Paso on Thursday, the day before the game. Washington State’s coaching staff was already hard at work preparing for the Chippewas on Monday evening in the Sun City. It was a huge boost after the Sun Bowl was cancelled last year, but also bittersweet for bowl officials.
“It would’ve been very difficult for us not to have a game two years in a row, so I’m elated about that,” said Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas. “The bowl season is a big family so you have to feel for those that are losing their games. We know what it’s like, so it’s a sad thing but at the same time we’re elated we’re going to have a game.”
Olivas told KTSM that in order for Central Michigan to come to the Sun Bowl, the Mid-American Conference first had to approve the move, which they did on Monday afternoon. After that, it was up to the Arizona Bowl to allow Central Michigan out of its obligation to play in Tucson. A fiscal agreement will likely allow CMU out, although it is unclear at this time how much it will be.
The bowl payout from the Sun Bowl is about $2.3 million per conference; the Arizona Bowl payout is around $175,000 per conference. Additionally, the Sun Bowl airs on CBS; the Arizona Bowl was going to be streamed on Youtube and the Barstool Sports website. Both of those were likely the biggest factors for Central Michigan’s decision.
After Miami was forced to back out of the Sun Bowl, the ACC will not receive its normal payment from the bowl, Olivas said. The MAC and Sun Bowl were still coming to terms on just how much the conference would receive in exchange for Central Michigan playing in the game.
Washington State arrived in El Paso on Sunday, still thinking it would play Miami. However, the Cougars were in limbo after the Hurricanes pulled out of the bowl a short time later. However, always stayed committed to the Sun Bowl.
“They want to be together and that’s why we’re fighting to keep this season going. There’s no one that wants this game to happen more than the Sun Bowl and the people of El Paso. There’s a passion for this game in this city,” said Washington State head coach Jake Dickert.
The Chippewas finished the 2021 season at 8-4 (6-2) in the Mid-American Conference, with the team marking their second bowl appearance in the last two years, after taking on San Diego State in the 2019 New Mexico Bowl. No MAC team participated in bowls in 2020 due to COVID.
Central Michigan last won a bowl game in 2012, beating Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
Both teams now have just three days to prepare for new opponents, something Dickert downplayed on Monday. Washington State was already watching film and preparing for Central Michigan on Monday evening after the news became official.
“We have three days to prepare and prep. We’ll be getting the film and then coaches do what you do. We’ve seen so many different offenses and defenses, you just go play off your base rules,” said Dickert.
Boise State is the sixth team to back out of a bowl game this season, all due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 had already impacted three bowl games, cancelling the Hawai’i Bowl, the new Fenway Bowl in Boston and the Military Bowl.
On Sunday, Miami officially announced they would not play in the Sun Bowl, due to COVID-19. The announcement sent bowl officials scrambling for a replacement squad. Officials were confident that they’d find an opponent for Washington State.
The 88th Annual Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game is set for Friday, December 31st at 10 a.m. For more information, click here.