Central Michigan will travel about 300 miles from Tucson to El Paso to play Washington State in the Sun Bowl after Miami was forced to pull out due to COVID-19 problems. The new matchup marks the first game between these two programs and CMU's first appearance in the historic Sun Bowl.
The Chippewas were originally scheduled to play in the Arizona Bowl, but the game was postponed after Boise State was forced to pull out due to similar Covid issues. Washington State stayed committed to the Sun Bowl and publicly campaigned to find an opponent, especially after the team landed in El Paso.
While financial terms have not been disclosed at this time, the Sun Bowl is broadcast on CBS and is scheduled to distribute more than $4.5 million to each school. For comparison, the Arizona Bowl was set to pay $350,000 to each participating school.
Miami was forced to withdraw from the Sun Bowl because of major Covid issues within the program. The Hurricanes also would have been playing with an interim coach after former coach Manny Diaz was fired.
"We are extremely disappointed that our football team will be unable to participate in the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl," Miami deputy athletic director Jennifer Strawley said in a statement. "But due to the number of COVID-19 cases impacting our roster we do not have enough student-athletes to safely compete, and the health and safety of our student-athletes will always be our top priority. This team worked hard all season to earn a bowl invitation and my heart goes out to our student-athletes, especially our seniors. I also want to thank interim head coach Jess Simpson and our football staff for all of their efforts in preparation for this bowl game."
Washington State arrived in El Paso earlier this week for Sun Bowl festivities. The Cougars stayed committed to finding an opponent to play in the Sun Bowl, which until last season trailed only the Rose Bowl as the second-longest running bowl game in college football history. The Sun Bowl was canceled in 2020 by the pandemic, the first missed Sun Bowl since 1935.
"It is disappointing news that the University of Miami is unable to participate in the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl," read a statement from Washington State. "We will work with the Pac-12 Conference and the Sun Bowl Association to hopefully find a replacement opponent for the game.
Miami is the fifth team to withdraw from a bowl game this season due to COVID-19 protocols, players opting out and/or injuries that diminish the number of available players on the roster. The 'Canes are the third team from the ACC alone to pull out from a bowl game on Sunday.
Virginia's virus-related issues forced the cancellation of its game vs. SMU in the Fenway Bowl; Hawaii's roster issue forced the cancellation of the Hawaii Bowl vs. Memphis; Boston College was forced to scrap the Military Bowl vs. East Carolina; and Texas A&M was replaced by Rutgers in the Gator Bowl vs. No. 20 Wake Forest after the Aggies' roster was impacted by a lack of available personnel.
Miami finishes the 2021 season with a record of 7-5 (5-3 ACC). Following the conclusion of the regular season, the Hurricanes abruptly fired Diaz and subsequently hired former Hurricanes star Mario Cristobal away from Oregon as their next coach.