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Omicron outbreaks sack bowl game plans for several Texas teams and venues

Alamo Dome Wide.jpg
Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
The Alamodome set stringent COVID-19 precautions for Valero Alamo Bowl in 2020, including reducing occupancy and requiring masks.

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the omicron variant, has upended postseason plans for a number of college football programs in Texas.

Texas A&M University withdrew last week from playing in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve, citing COVID-19 issues and season-ending injuries.

“The Aggie football roster is not in a position to safely participate in the upcoming Dec. 31 Taxslayer Gator Bowl against Wake Forest,” the school’s athletics department said in a statement Wednesday. Rutgers University is slated to replace Texas A&M for the bowl game in Jacksonville, Florida.

Also last week, the Southern Methodist University Mustangs lost their chance to play in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl on Dec. 29 after their scheduled opponent, University of Virginia, dropped out due to an outbreak of the virus among team members. Organizers on Sunday announced the inaugural bowl game at the Red Sox’s historic ballpark in Boston would not be rescheduled this year.

In West Texas, COVID-19 cases among athletes have disrupted plans for the upcoming Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso. The Miami Hurricanes withdrew from the game on Sunday, saying they wouldn’t be able to field a team against Washington State. Game organizers on Monday announced Central Michigan University will replace Miami.

Across the U.S, at least five college bowl games had been impacted by a rise in COVID-19 cases as of Monday, but others are moving forward as planned. In Texas, that includes the Servpro First Responder Bowl, which kicks off Tuesday night at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas with the Louisville Cardinals up against the Air Force Falcons. Oklahoma and Oregon are still set to face off Wednesday in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

COVID-19 cases have also impacted professional sports in Texas as well. When it comes to the NFL, 10 of the Houston Texans’ starters were out due to the coronavirus during Sunday’s stunning win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The NHL on Monday postponed two additional Dallas Stars games against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday and Friday, due to coronavirus cases among players. All three NBA teams in Texas — the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets — have faced an increase in COVID-19 cases, much like the rest of the league.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, The Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.