Tucson, Arizona. – Around 12:30 pm Monday, Kym Adair and his team entered jamming mode.
With Boise State unable to participate in Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl 2021 due to COVID-19, Tucson’s boules set needed a replacement – and fast. The match was scheduled for Friday at noon. Arizona Bowl Executive Director Adair and her team had about 5.5 hours to perform a Hail Mary.
They worked the phones. They spoke to conference commissioners, assistant commissioners, sports directors. In an interview on Tuesday, Adair couldn’t recall exactly how many. “It’s all a blur,” she told the Arizona Daily Star.
The Arizona Bowl has always been a rambling underdog. Finding a replacement team that could assemble quickly, pass COVID protocols, and get to Tucson safely turned out to be an impossible task.
The 2021 game had to be called off. The official announcement arrived via Twitter at 6:08 p.m.
“We are working year round to put this in place,” Adair said. “It’s really sad, disappointing and frustrating that we weren’t able to bring the game to Tucson and all that it brings to the community.
“We had a few moments there where we thought we’d identified a team or two, but eventually it fell apart. We did our best. We turned all the stones we could to try to make this game a reality. “
Soon after, they began to deal with the fallout.
For the first time since its inception in 2015, the Arizona Bowl would go extinct. Even last year – when the pandemic seemed to be at its peak and COVID ravaged one of the participants – the match started as planned. Fans were not allowed into Arizona Stadium, but the contest was televised to a national audience on CBS.
Eighteen college football bowl games were called off last season due to COVID. The Arizona Bowl was one of the lucky ones. This time, he couldn’t escape that fate, becoming the fourth game of the 2021-22 cycle to be called off. (The Holiday Bowl, scheduled for Tuesday night in San Diego, became # 5.)
“The Arizona Bowl has always been built on three pillars: giving all the bottom line to charity, shining the spotlight on Tucson and southern Arizona, and creating a big economic impact,” said Ali Farhang, chairman of the board. of the Arizona Bowl. “The cancellation of the game is a big blow to all three.”
Despite the likelihood of rain on Friday, Arizona Bowl officials had gigantic expectations for this year’s game.
The Arizona Bowl is in the first year of a three-year sponsorship deal with Barstool Sports, a controversial but popular outlet that was also scheduled to broadcast the game. Scott Stapp, singer of Creed, was scheduled to perform at halftime. Ticket sales – which, along with the concessions, provide the bulk of the boules game’s charitable contributions – were on the rise, officials told The Star.
About 25,000 tickets were sold this week, Adair said. Since the transition to afternoon kick-off time in 2016, the Arizona Bowl has averaged 35,565 fans (not counting last year).
Adair expected Arizona Bowl 2021 “to be able to give more to charity than we have ever been able to give before.” The ball game has donated more than $ 4.5 million in the past six years, said Adair – an average of $ 750,000.
The Arizona Bowl generates an annual economic impact of $ 25 million to $ 30 million for the city of Tucson, Adair said. Due to the cancellation, hotel rooms that had to be reserved until New Years Day will likely be unoccupied.
Boise State was due to arrive in Tucson on Tuesday. The team – more than 100 players, along with coaches and support staff – were due to stay at the JW Marriott in Starr Pass until Friday.
Boise State’s opponent, Central Michigan, arrived in Tucson on Sunday. Instead, the Chippes headed to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, replacing Miami, another victim of COVID protocols. Central Michigan is staying at the Westin La Paloma before leaving town Thursday. CMU will face Washington State on Friday at 10 a.m.
Doing just by Central Michigan and the Mid-American Conference – which is in the second year of a six-year deal with the Arizona Bowl, as well as the Mountain West Conference – added another layer to Monday’s run for save the game.
“We are all football fans at heart,” Adair said. “We welcomed these children on Sunday when they arrived. We could see how excited they were for our bowling game. Even though we weren’t able to provide this experience, we absolutely wanted them to have it at the Sun Bowl if we couldn’t find a team.
The Arizona Bowl won’t meet its charitable goals this year, but the community won’t leave empty-handed. Adair has about 20 boxes of merchandise featuring Boise State and Central Michigan in his office. The plan is to donate it to local charities that support the homeless.
Figuring out how to do that is one of the many issues that Adair and her staff need to “relax” in the next few days, she said. These tasks include “canceling as much as we can cancel”, trying to get refunds from suppliers and contacting sponsors to “let them know what happened and ask for their continued support”.
The Arizona Bowl had a planned week of activities, most of which were canceled. A cheer gathering at Jacome Plaza featuring cheerleaders, mascots and bands was scheduled for Thursday. The Barstool Sports Tailgate Festival – including a live broadcast of the “Barstool College Football Show” – at the University of Arizona Mall was scheduled to precede the game. Pre-kickoff festivities included an Air Force flyby and Wings of Blue paratroopers descending into Arizona Stadium.
The New Years Eve Downtown Bowl Bash is still going on. It is scheduled from 6:00 pm to 1:00 am and will feature food vendors, live music and the annual “Taco Drop”. Adair said it was important to provide “a free event for our community to say goodbye to 2021 and celebrate 2022”.
Adair and his team will turn their attention to next year’s game from next week. Although Farhang described this year’s cancellation as “numbing” and “beyond devastating,” he stressed that the Arizona Bowl is here for the long haul.
“We are going to feel sorry for ourselves tonight,” he said on Monday evening. “Then we’re going to get up in the morning and sort out all the issues we need to relax with the cancellation of the game – and work on 2022.
“It’s more of a team. It’s more than a game. It’s about building a tradition of success.