NC Bowl Games Canceled Following Surge in Omicron Cases


This week, two North Carolina College Bowl games were canceled due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in select teams, forcing the teams to cancel their games under short notice. This has left coaches, teams, and fans upset and reminiscent of the cancellation of the ACC tournament in March of 2020, which was going to feature four NC teams, more teams than in any other state. 

The first NC game to be canceled was the Military Bowl, which pitted Boston College against East Carolina University. The game was canceled at noon on Sunday, only a day before kickoff on Monday, the 27th. This game would’ve been the first bowl game ECU played in since the 2014 Birmingham Bowl. The game was canceled as the decision of BC’s athletic program, which is directed by Pat Kraft. In a statement on the cancellation of the bowl, Kraft said: “Unfortunately, due to cases of COVID-19 rising within our program since our arrival, along with season-ending injuries, opt-outs and transfers, we just do not have enough players to field a team.” Eastern North Carolina’s predominant news channel, WITN, was told that there were more than forty cases among Boston’s team. Despite knowing of these cases for a while, Boston decided to cancel only a day before kickoff. Because of this, not only the football team, but the fans who bought tickets, the cheerleaders, and the 250+ members of the marching band had to find new plans and return home after this disappointing occurrence. “This is painful to digest,” said ECU’s coach Mike Houston. “I’m hurting for the young men representing our football program. We are crushed that we can’t compete on Monday and allow our seniors one final opportunity to wear the Pirates uniform.” In spite of this disappointing news, Houston sends well wishes to everyone affected by this decision, “So many sacrifices have been made. I hope everything is okay on the other side. You know, health-wise, I hope nobody’s seriously sick. I just hate it for these kids.”

Echoing the turnout of the Military Bowl, the Holiday Bowl, which featured UCLA and NC State University, was canceled only four hours before the 8:00 pm kickoff on Tuesday the 28th, again due to an outbreak of cases in UCLA’s football team. This game has particularly left NC State’s football community upset because if won, this bowl would’ve solidified NC State’s second time winning ten games in a season in the program’s 129-year-old history. On top of that, NC State is currently ranked 18th place nationally; this is the best season that the Wolfpack has had in decades. As the Holiday Bowl was scheduled to be played in San Diego, California, this cancellation greatly inconvenienced the NC State team, student groups, and fans. In a statement on this cancellation, UCLA’s athletic director, Martin Jarmond wrote, “With today’s COVID results, our medical staff deemed it unsafe for us to compete this evening. While we had isolated COVID challenges, we were still in a position to compete up until today.” NC State coach Dave Doeren told reporters that “[We] felt lied to, to be honest, we felt like UCLA probably knew something was going on, [but] didn’t tell anybody on our side. We had no clue they were up against that. I don’t feel like it was very well handled from their university. It would have been great to have had a heads-up so two or three days ago, we could have found a Plan B. Disappointing.”

Counting these two games, five bowl games have been canceled this season due to surges of COVID-19 in college teams. Many are comparing these to the NCAA College Basketball Tournament being canceled in the spring of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and are worrying about the possibility of NFL cancellations near the end of the season. Currently, only three NFL games were postponed, all in Week 15. All of these games were postponed due to positive COVID-19 in teams, and all games have been played. These games included the Raiders-Browns game, which was rescheduled from the 18th to the 20th, and the Seahawks-Rams and Washington-Eagles games, which were both rescheduled from the 19th to the 21st.

These cancellations are occurring as daily US COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high, the highest being on Tuesday, the 28th, with a whopping 512,553 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The same source claims that the previous high was 294,015 cases on January 8, 2021. The University also claims that this drastic increase in cases is due to the untimely surge of the highly infectious Omicron variant in the height of the holiday season. While this data is certainly alarming, some take comfort in the fact that mRNA boosters, such as Pfizer and Moderna, provide a “significant increase” in protection against Omicron, as stated by Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Denmark’s top infectious disease authority, which gathered data from three million Danes between November 20th and December 12th.

With cancellations of sporting events and the threat of having to return to lockdown after the sudden landslide of Omicron cases, stopping the spread of COVID-19 is more important now than ever. To inch closer to returning to a sense of normalcy pre-pandemic, the CDC recommends all individuals stay home if any symptoms of COVID-19 are present, wear masks, get tested, and get fully vaccinated and boosted if possible. 

More information on COVID-19 and the Omicron variant can be found at this link. Use this link to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment with UNC Health.