Tennessee will be unable to play in the Liberty Bowl due to positive COVID-19 tests throughout the program.
The school announced Monday that it has paused all team activities after receiving the results of its Sunday round of testing, which revealed “an increase in positive cases among student-athletes and staff.” The positive tests include head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
As a result, Tennessee will be unable to play West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.
“The University of Tennessee extends its sincere appreciation to the Liberty Bowl and the city of Memphis and is disappointed it will not be able to fulfill its commitment on New Year’s Eve,” a statement from Tennessee Athletics reads.
Pruitt said in a statement that he is “experiencing mild symptoms but doing fine.”
“We are obviously disappointed that we will not be able to play in the Liberty Bowl, but the health and safety of our student-athletes will always remain our top priority,” Pruitt said. “I am especially proud of our team and medical staff in safely navigating through a unique season where we played all 10 of our regular-season games.”
Tennessee formally accepted an invitation to play West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on Sunday, but the positive tests turned up on Monday morning. According to VolQuest.com, Tennessee did not have the results of the tests when it accepted the bowl bid:
Results came back Monday morning with multiple positive tests. Tennessee retested all of them to make sure there is not a batch of false positives. They also conducted a second round of tests on Monday for everyone in the program. After the results of the retest, Tennessee has paused all football operations.
Tennessee’s record dropped to 3-7 with Saturday’s 34-13 loss to Texas A&M. UT becomes the second team unable to play in its bowl game because of COVID-19 issues, joining SMU. The Frisco Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 19, was canceled because of virus issues within the SMU program.
A spot for Army?
According to ESPN.com, Army could possibly land in a bowl game now that Tennessee is unable to play.
Army, despite being 9-2, missed out on a bowl berth on Sunday. The Black Knights were contracted to play in the Independence Bowl, but the game was canceled after an array of programs opted not to play in the postseason.
Per ESPN.com, Army now could potentially play in the Armed Forces Bowl if Mississippi State is moved into the Liberty Bowl in place of Tennessee. The current Armed Forces Bowl matchup is Mississippi State vs. No. 24 Tulsa.
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