Army left out in Bowl Day marred by cancellations, opt outs

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FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, file photo, Army head coach Jeff Monken looks on against Navy during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Point, N.Y., in the 121st playing of the Army-Navy game. Army has a 9-2 record and was planning to play in the Independence Bowl. When that bowl game was called off because there was not another team available, it suddenly left Army looking for a postseason opponent. The Black Knights could be in line should some bowl-bound team find itself dealing with COVID-19 issues. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

At a time when team after team had opted out of bowl games, Army found itself in a different sort of situation — left out.

The Black Knights have a 9-2 record and a nearly two-month-long commitment to the Independence Bowl. They seemed all set. But when the Dec. 26 game in Louisiana was called off Sunday night because there was not an available team to play, it suddenly left Army on the outside of the postseason landscape.

A sliver of hope remains: The Black Knights could be in line should some bowl-bound team find itself dealing with COVID-19 issues.

“These young men haven’t quit all year and we surely won’t quit now," Army director of athletics Mike Buddie said in a statement. “They deserve better. Period.”

What is usually a joyous day for more than 60 teams around the country was far more surreal as organizers set the annual bowl schedule two weeks later than usual. Far below the headlines of Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Clemson, the scramble was weird — and in the case of Army, painful.

This only adds insult: With bowl contracts still in force, a South Carolina team with a woeful 2-8 record is going to the Gasparilla Bowl.

With the season winding down, more than 20 Bowl Subdivivion teams chose not to accept an invitation to a bowl, calling an end to this long season. That led to the unusual situation of postseason games not having enough teams to fill the slots.

“It was a difficult day for all of college football,” said Nick Carparelli, the executive director of Bowl Season, the renamed Football Bowl Association. “We probably would have been naïve to think that wouldn’t have been, given all the challenges everybody’s gone through this year.”