South Carolina finished with a 2-8 record, fired coach Will Muschamp in the middle of the season and are transitioning to first-year coach Shane Beamer. Despite all of that, the Gamecocks earned a bid to the Gasparilla Bowl to face Conference USA champion UAB. That trip won’t happen, though, because the Gamecocks won’t be able to play due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the program.
“The team was excited to learn Sunday that it would play in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa on Saturday,” said athletic director Ray Tanner. “However, between members of the coaching staff and student-athletes, COVID and contact tracing has taken a toll too high for us to overcome. I have notified the bowl and the SEC office that we are not able to play in the game on Saturday. I am proud of this team. Their commitment to represent their program and University, themselves, their families, and their coaches, is second to none.”
The coaching staff is especially hard-hit, according to 247Sports. At least one member of the coaching staff has tested positive which has resulted in the entire staff being put into quarantine. It isn’t the only reason, though. The report also states that several players simply didn’t want to play in Saturday’s game, which was supposed to be offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s last as the Gamecocks’ interim head coach. Those issues, along with opt outs, injuries and early declarations for the NFL draft, have left the program under the 53-player minimum for participation.
“Our football team has been on campus since the summer preparing for a football season that saw change being the only constant,” said Tanner. “They had to go through strict COVID testing protocols that were as varied and numerous as any group of young people has had to do. We had a season that was cut short but had to play more Southeastern Conference games than any year in history. Our players, who thrive on the energy from a full Williams-Brice Stadium, played in front of just 20 percent of a stadium, as dictated by state regulations. Our team competed hard all season, despite injuries, positive COVID tests and contact testing, and several opt outs late in the year.”
Though South Carolina will not be participating, Conference USA champion UAB still has some hope to compete in a bowl game. Shortly after the Gamecocks’ withdrawal, the Gasparilla Bowl committee didn’t outright cancel its annual festivities, rather informed everyone that it will provide an update soon as it explores the next steps.
This wraps up a disappointing season for the Gamecocks. Their only two wins of the season were over winless Vanderbilt and a surprise upset of Auburn at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. They lost their final six games including a 41-18 loss at Kentucky to wrap up the regular season.
South Carolina is the second SEC team to bow out of bowl season due to COVID-19. Tennessee canceled its trip to Memphis to take on West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, and the Volunteers were replaced by Army.
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