The Hawaii Bowl was canceled Thursday after Hawaii withdrew from its game against Memphis on the eve of the contest because of COVID-19, season-ending injuries and transfers.
“We are disappointed our season has to end this way,” Hawaii coach Todd Graham said in a statement. “As competitive as we are and as much as we want to play the game, we cannot put the health and safety of our student-athletes at risk.”
The game was scheduled for Friday at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex.
Hawaii athletic department spokesperson Derek Inouchi said about 30 players and staff recently tested positive for COVID-19. Cases have been surging in Honolulu for the past two weeks. Oahu’s seven-day average of new cases was 11 times higher on Thursday compared to Dec. 8.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is the most important part of this decision,” Hawaii athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has forced us to not participate in the game. We are disappointed for our players, coaches, and fans. ESPN and the EasyPost Hawaii Bowl staff did everything they could for us and we appreciate their valiant effort throughout the week. We want to thank the Memphis Tigers for making the long trip to Hawaii. We are disappointed we can’t compete on the football field.”
The Hawaii Bowl is one of several postseason games ESPN owns and operates.
“While we are disappointed that the bowl will not be played despite considerable efforts from our many stakeholders, sponsors, supporters, and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this game a reality, we thank the University of Memphis and its fans for making the long trip, and we hope they were able to enjoy the unique experience that this event offers in the Aloha state,” ESPN said in a statement.
Hawaii finished the season 6-7, getting into the bowl because there were no available 6-6 teams. Memphis finished 6-6.
“We are very disappointed to hear that Hawaii will be unable to participate," Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said in a statement. “We hope that Hawaii players and staff get healthy soon. I’m upset for our seniors and the rest of the team that battled this season to earn this opportunity. We’ve had terrific time here in Hawaii as a program and we are sad our trip ended this way.”
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.