EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Sun Bowl Association made it official on Tuesday ― the second-longest running bowl game in the country, only behind the Rose Bowl, will not be played in 2020. The cancellation is due to the on-going pandemic and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in El Paso.
Stadium’s Brett McMurphy was the first to report the cancellation on Monday. On Tuesday, the Sun Bowl Board of Directors voted unanimously to cancel the game, making it official.
The Sun Bowl has been played every year since 1935. This is the first time in the 87-year history of the Sun Bowl that it has had to cancel, making it one of the more difficult decisions the board of directors has ever had to make.
“The Sun Bowl has historically been a way to expose our amazing City of El Paso to the rest of our country. A great way to share our culture, our community, our people, and our neighbors to the South,” said football committee chairman and long-time board member John Folmer. “However, now is no time to expose players and their families to the pandemic and being that I’ve been involved with Sun Bowl for almost 50 years, and it breaks my heart to do this, but it is the right thing to do.”
While a handful of bowl games have looked into relocating their games ― the New Mexico Bowl will be played in Fort Worth, Texas, this year ― that was never an option for the Sun Bowl.
“It’s El Paso’s game,” said executive director Bernie Olivas. “We made the decision if things got really bad [in El Paso], we would just not play it this year. That’s where we are at.”
Olivas has been working on plans to host the game at Sun Bowl Stadium with limited fans up until last weekend, he even had discussions with the Pac-12 and the ACC on Friday with a plan in place. However, as the calendar turned from November to December, now was the time to make the decision to cancel.
“While it is a very sad decision to make, we believe it is the right decision based on the current situation in El Paso and the nation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Olivas. “The safety and well-being of everybody involved must be our priority, and our board unanimously approved the cancelation of the 2020 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. We look forward to bringing back El Paso’s long-standing tradition game 2021 and all the festivities associated with the game.”
The financial and economic hit to the Sun Bowl Association will be massive. While that figure in unknown at this time, they will not have to pay the participating teams the money they usually receive for playing in the game. The payout is typically around $4.7 million annually, split evenly between the ACC and Pac-12.
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, or Tony the Tiger, has been the title sponsor of the Sun Bowl since 2019. They are also providing relief to the Sun Bowl Association as well as the El Paso community.
A statement from Kellogg’s reads, “Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Tony the Tiger recognize the impact the game’s cancelation has on our entire local community and all the local game day workers who traditionally make the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl run. From the parking attendants and maintenance to the concessions team and ushers, Tony the Tiger will ensure Sun Bowl workers receive their usual paycheck this holiday season. Additionally, Frosted Flakes will donate 1 million meals to El Paso food banks, which continues our game’s historic commitment to the families and residents of this vibrant community.”
The Sun Bowl becomes the ninth bowl game in the country to be canceled this year. It is the fourth bowl game with ACC and PAC-12 tie-ins. To date, there have been 101 canceled or postponed football subdivision (FBS) games this season.
The Sun Bowl Association has also been forced to cancel their college golf and basketball tournaments.