Report: Rutgers stepping in to replace Texas A&M in Gator Bowl

Aggies withdrew from game early Wednesday due to COVID-19 outbreak

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher yells to the officials during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (David J. Phillip, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Texas A&M has withdrawn from next week’s TaxSlayer Gator Bowl because of COVID-19 issues, forcing the game to adjust on the fly to bringing a new team to Jacksonville to replace it.

According to, it will be Rutgers that replaces the Aggies for the Dec. 31 game at TIAA Bank Field against Wake Forest (10-3).

Gator Bowl Sports president Greg McGarity said earlier Wednesday that a new team would need to be in place within 48 hours for the game to go on as scheduled. That included looking at 5-7 teams or teams that have already competed in a bowl game.

The replacement for Texas A&M — Rutgers (5-7).

An official announcement from the Gator Bowl will come once the NCAA gives its approval.

McGarity said he and other officials are waiting to hear back from the NCAA Oversight Committee on the final word on who is eligible to play and who will be selected. He told The Morning Show on Thursday that he has not heard back from Rutgers and there are also other teams interested in playing.

One team that has been in contact with Gator Bowl officials is the University of Illinois -- which happens to be Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s alma mater.

McGarity said he was feeling more hopeful Thursday morning that they will come to a solution to play the game than he was feeling Wednesday when Texas A&M withdrew.

“We are very hopeful that something will work out. We’re crossing our fingers that things will work out, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of work that went on in a very short amount of time,” McGarity said on The Morning Show.

Greg McGarity says he and other officials are waiting to hear back from the NCAA Oversight Committee on the final word on who is eligible to play and who will be selected.

Rutgers had the highest Academic Progress Rate, according to College Football News, among the 5-7 teams in consideration. That can be used as bowl qualifying criteria for sub-.500 teams going to a bowl game. The Scarlet Knights last played in a bowl game in 2014, the Quick Lane Bowl, and beat North Carolina, 40-21.

Rutgers lost its regular-season finale, 40-16, to Maryland. That prevented it from qualifying for a bowl on the merit of a .500 finish.

It was a fluid Wednesday after A&M announced it was withdrawing from the game due to a COVID-19 outbreak left it with barely three dozen scholarship players.

“What we’re focused on now is can we find a replacement team by noon on Friday. So we’re working with our partners at ESPN, with the NCAA bowl season. We’re gonna chase every rabbit that we can to see if there’s another team that wants to play because Wake Forest is ready. They’re totally healthy,” McGarity said earlier Wednesday.

“They’ve done a great job preparing for this game. Not only for the team, but their fans and everything. So they’ve done a great job. And we certainly want to see if we can find a replacement game and do our best so at the end of the day, we can say that we did our due diligence and did the best we could.”

“The problem with selecting an opponent that wasn’t already in a bowl game,” McGarity said, “is that teams had already stopped practicing weeks ago. Players have gone home for Christmas break.”

One option on the table is to find a team that has already competed in a bowl game to take Texas A&M’s spot in the game. Eleven bowl games have already happened.

Completed bowl games

DateBowl gameResult
Dec. 21Frisco BowlSan Diego State 38, UTSA 24
Dec. 21Famous Idaho PotatoWyoming 52, Kent State 38
Dec. 20Myrtle BeachTulsa 30, Old Dominion 17
Dec. 18New OrleansLouisiana 36, Marshall 21
Dec. 18L.A. BowlUtah State 24, Oregon State 13
Dec. 18LendingTreeLiberty 56, E. Michigan 20
Dec. 18IndependenceUAB 31, BYU 28
Dec. 18New MexicoFresno State 31, UTEP 24
Dec. 18Boca Raton BowlWestern Kentucky 59, App State 38
Dec. 17Cure BowlCoastal Carolina 47, N. Illinois 41
Dec. 17Bahamas BowlMiddle Tennessee 31, Toledo 24

“We’re giving it 48 hours to find a replacement team. So yes, I mean, maybe this will cause a team [who has played in a bowl] to say, ‘hey, we’d like a do over and see if we can make that happen.’ I’m sure we could get an NCAA waiver to make it happen for these teams to play an extra game, so you just never know, but you don’t know unless you try.”

The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl is a 76-year tradition. Annually, the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl provides a $14-$16 million economic impact to Northeast Florida and over $500,000 is donated to local charitable organizations.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.