NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Carlson: College football bowl season has already been reduced by coronavirus. Expect more cancellations.

The Holiday Bowl, pitting the Pac-12 against the ACC, is one of 10 bowl games already canceled for this season. [Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports]
The Holiday Bowl, pitting the Pac-12 against the ACC, is one of 10 bowl games already canceled for this season. [Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports]

The email popped into my inbox during the lunch hour Thursday, and even though I couldn’t see the contents, the visible snippet of the subject line gave me a feeling that I knew what it was about.


The feeling: The Boca Raton Bowl was announcing it was canceling like several other bowls have amid the pandemic.

I was wrong, it turns out. The Boca Bowl actually got a title sponsor,, whatever in the heck that is. And yet, I’m fairly certain the emails announcing bowl cancellations are likely to continue.

Already 10 bowls have been canceled.

Here’s the rundown, plus the affiliated conferences:

Bahamas, Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Celebration, Mid-Eastern Athletic vs. Southwestern Athletic

Fenway, American Athletic vs ACC

Hawaii, AAC vs. Mountain West

Holiday, ACC vs. Pac-12

Las Vegas, Pac-12 vs. SEC

Pinstripe, ACC vs. Big Ten

Quick Lane, ACC, Big Ten, Mid-American

Redbox, Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Sun, ACC vs. Pac-12

First of all, the Fenway Bowl? I didn’t even know it existed before it got canceled. The truth is, college football has too many bowl games. It has led to so-so teams getting in and bad matchups being played.

Attendance is poor, and TV viewership is low.

Sure, the big bowls continue to draw fans and viewers, but sometimes with these lower-tier bowls, it feels like the teams don’t even want to be there.

And during a pandemic? Even fewer teams will want to go.

I’m guessing that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen bowls being canceled. Think about it — let’s say your team lands in the Quick Lane Bowl. That game is held in Detroit, and while I’ve always enjoyed visiting The Motor City, it doesn’t exactly strike me as a great December destination.

And then, let’s say you’re a coach of one of the teams there. If you go a week before the game like most bowl teams do, how are you going to handle keeping your team away from COVID? Are you going to quarantine in a hotel? Are you going to try to create a bubble? How would that work? What is that going to cost?

But more than that, does any coach really want to try to sequester a hundred young men in a hotel for a week after a season that has already tested everyone’s sanity?

Hard to think so.

Even if a team decides to treat a bowl like a regular-season game — traveling into town the night before the game and returning home right after — there is still the added cost of keeping the team on campus or bringing it back to campus with all of this season’s pandemic protocols. Yes, there are financial payouts associated with these bowls, but would it be enough to offset the costs?

It’s impossible to think all of the bowls would.

I’m hopeful the grand, old bowls will survive. The Rose and Sugar are national semifinals this year, so they’re safe unless something truly unexpected happens. But bowls like the Orange and Peach and Fiesta? Seems likely they’ll be played, but without national-championship implications, nothing is certain.

Bowl season is already going to be thinner than normal, much like this regular season, and while I hope bowl games don't get completely wiped out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more announcements with more cancellations.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or Like her at, follow her at, and support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›