Gator Bowl hangs in balance as Texas A&M deals with COVID outbreak

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - OCTOBER 02: head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Texas A&M Aggies brings his team onto the field against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on October 02, 2021 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) (Bob Levey, 2021 Bob Levey)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Officials at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl are holding their breath after being told that one of the teams set to play in the New Years’ Day bowl game, Texas A&M, is dealing with a COVID outbreak and may not have enough players to compete in the game.

Gator Bowl sports president Greg McGarity said he was informed Monday evening that Texas A&M were dealing with some COVID concerns. Then Tuesday, posted a story with more details, including the extent of the outbreak of positive tests.

According to that post, the team is holding all meetings currently via Zoom. As of right now, the game is still a go, according to McGarity.

“There’s not a lot of time to do things as far as pushing games back, things of that nature, because of the calendar. But certainly we’re going to explore every opportunity that may be there if it doesn’t work out. But again, we’re hopeful that we’ll get good news by Thursday and we’re able to play and with the amount of players that are available for A&M and Wake Forest and have a great game,” McGarity said.

“So, that’s our goal. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and trying to be as positive as we can, but we’re really not in control of this at this time.”

Because the SEC protocols call for a 10-day quarantine for a positive COVID test, Aggies players were testing Tuesday, needing negative tests to be able to travel to Jacksonville. Texas A&M is scheduled to depart for the bowl game on Sunday. In short, it’s a hurry-up and wait situation.

“I think we’re in the same situation everyone was in last year,” McGarity said. “You have to have a certain amount of players in each position to be able to compete at this level.

“So, I think what they’re doing now is they’ll get all their test results, they’ll do the contact tracing, and they’ll figure out how many people will be available to play and then they’ll meet with the SEC and, and either say, ‘We’re in’ or ‘We’re out.’ And so, unfortunately, it puts us in a position where we’re kind of in limbo for the next 24 hours or 48 hours until we really hear anything.”

Texas A&M’s opponent, Wake Forest has not had any COVID-related issues. They are scheduled to travel to Jacksonville on Tuesday, Dec. 27. They are also in a holding pattern.

What if Texas A&M can’t field a team? That’s a worst-case scenario and something that McGarity said was too early to tell if was a possibility. Last year, 12 bowl games were canceled due to the pandemic.

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Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.