Following the announcement that Texas A&M’s football team is withdrawing from the Dec. 31 Gator Bowl, Wake Forest athletic director John Currie said Wednesday that at least five other teams have expressed interest in replacing the Aggies as an opponent for the Demon Deacons.
Currie said he is “heartened” by the teams that have reached out, including one team that has already played in a bowl game.
Earlier Wednesday, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said in a news release that the combination of COVID issues the team is experiencing and injuries to several players meant they would not have enough scholarship players available to play in the bowl game.
The team did not provide specific numbers for COVID-positives or injuries.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson said he met with his team’s captains Wednesday to ask what they wanted to do, and the answer was that they wanted to play, but would prefer to stay at home to celebrate the holidays with their families instead of staying at school to practice and prepare if the game was unlikely to take place.
“I think for our players, in fairness to them, if we’re going to keep them over the Christmas holiday, we probably need to know something fairly early Friday,” Clawson said. “We wanted to give it enough time so there was an opportunity to find an opponent. But again, our players – and you can understand this – if they’re not going to be playing in a bowl game, they wanted to be able to spend the holidays with their families.”
The Aggies (8-4) were scheduled to leave for Jacksonville on Sunday.
“It is heartbreaking for our players, coaches, staff and fans that we are not able to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. “Postseason football is the pinnacle of the season and when the opportunity is lost, it hurts on many levels.
“As we have learned in the last 21 months of this health challenge, the well-being and safety of our student-athletes is paramount,” he continued. “Our players poured their heart and soul into this season and we appreciate their dedication as Aggies. Aggie football is on track for long-term success and we know that the best is yet to come.”
Wake Forest (10-3) is holding out hope of finding another team to play in the Gator Bowl to cap a 10-win season that included winning an Atlantic Coast Conference division title.
The Aggies had an up-and-down season in which they went 4-4 in Southeastern Conference play. They beat Alabama on Oct. 9 when the Crimson Tide was ranked No. 1 but wrapped up the season with a disappointing 27-24 loss at LSU.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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