COLUMBIA, S.C. (TheBigSpur) - The South Carolina football team is not playing in the Gasparilla Bowl due to a COVID-19 occurrence that has the entire offensive coaching staff – minus interim head coach Mike Bobo – in quarantine.
The offensive staff will not be able to coach in the bowl game due to contact tracing protocols.
Athletics director Ray Tanner met with the players on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the team’s status as it relates to the Gasparilla Bowl. The team had a players-only meeting ahead of the conversation with Tanner.
The team was already low on available scholarship players, as a result of injuries and opt-outs. Interim head coach Mike Bobo, the only current staff member not in quarantine, said “51 or 52” scholarship players practiced on Sunday evening. The team was scheduled to practice again on Monday, but that was canceled, because of a COVID positive test on the coaching staff.
John Whittle of TheBigSpur spoke with Tanner shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday regarding a report that some players did not want in the bowl game for Bobo.
That report is not accurate.
There was a faction of players on the team who expressed in that meeting with Tanner that they did not wish to play in the Gasparilla Bowl. However, interim head coach Mike Bobo’s name was never mentioned in that meeting with Tanner.
No player voiced a concern to Tanner in that meeting that they would not play because of Bobo or his current status as interim leader of the program.
It should also be noted that there are faction of players who did want to play in the bowl game. There was a large group who wanted the chance to play one more game.
The University and Tanner released an official statement on Tuesday afternoon as well, confirming the Gamecocks would not participate in the Gasparilla Bowl.
That statement from Tanner reads as follows:
“Our football team has been on campus since the summer preparing for a football season that saw change being the only constant. They had to go through strict COVID testing protocols that were as varied and numerous as any group of young people has had to do.
”We had a season that was cut short but had to play more Southeastern Conference games than any year in history. Our players, who thrive on the energy from a full Williams-Brice Stadium, played in front of just 20 percent of a stadium, as dictated by state regulations. Our team competed hard all season, despite injuries, positive COVID tests and contact testing, and several opt outs late in the year.
”When the NCAA announced in October that it was waiving the minimum wins requirement to participate in bowl games, we knew that the SEC had enough bowl tie-ins, that we would likely get to play in a bowl game.
”The team was excited to learn Sunday that it would play in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa on Saturday. However, between members of the coaching staff and student-athletes, COVID and contact tracing has taken a toll too high for us to overcome. I have notified the bowl and the SEC office that we are not able to play in the game on Saturday.
”I am proud of this team. Their commitment to represent their program and University, themselves, their families, and their coaches, is second to none. With new head coach Shane Beamer, staff, and student-athletes, we will be ready for 2021 and we’re excited about the future.”
The Gamecocks (2-8) were able to make it through their 10-game, all-SEC regular season without any interruptions. The Gasparilla Bowl, played in Tampa, Fla., was set to be played on Saturday, Dec. 26 at noon on ABC. The Blazers (6-3) are Conference USA champions.
South Carolina is the second SEC team to receive a bowl invite on Sunday afternoon and back out early in the week. Tennessee was forced to back out of the Armed Forces Bowl on Monday due to an outbreak on the team, which included a positive a test for head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
The next Gamecocks football game is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Shane Beamer, who finished his work at Oklahoma with a Big 12 Championship, will begin his first season as head coach. Beamer is currently in Columbia, to conduct in-person interviews with players about next season.