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Boise State withdraws from Arizona Bowl after COVID outbreak

Boise State athletics and Arizona Bowl executives confirmed the Broncos shut down all football activities and are unable to compete in Friday's contest.

BOISE, Idaho — Update: Central Michigan will now play Washington State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso Friday. Both teams were in need of opponents after Miami and Boise State withdrew from their respective contests. The Arizona Bowl is canceled.

The Boise State University football team has withdrawn from the Arizona Bowl after tests confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 among the players.

Barstool Sports president Dave Portnoy first confirmed the Broncos dropped out in a Tweet Monday afternoon. Shortly after, a Boise State source confirmed the announcement with KTVB's Jay Tust.

According to a statement from Boise State athletics, all team activities have been shut down in response to COVID-19 protocols and the school confirmed reports of the Broncos being unable to play. 

“We feel for the young men in our program who were very much looking forward to closing out their season, and for some, their football careers,” Boise State director of athletics Jeramiah Dickey said. “I would personally like to thank Kym Adair and her team at the Arizona Bowl for putting together a first-class student-athlete and fan experience that we are extremely disappointed to miss.”

Boise State (7-5) was scheduled to play Central Michigan (8-4) on Friday in the Arizona Bowl, which was planned to be available only on the barstoolsports.com streaming app.

"I was saddened at first to hear that Boise State would not be playing in the Arizona bowl but I understand and respect the university's decision," said Isabella Zito, who had tickets to the game. "The health and safety of the players and the coaches and all the staff is most important,"

On Sunday KTVB's Jay Tust reported that players were being tested as part of the program's COVID-19 protocol as they returned to campus from the Christmas weekend.

One BSU source told Tust that some players tested positive when they returned Sunday night, but that the team felt they were in an "okay" position at the time.

According to another source, some players were affected by travel delays getting back to Boise after Christmas.

"I kind of anticipated it, once Texas A&M kind of set the landscape it was just a matter of if this was going to be a game that was going to be affected by it," said BSU fan Larry Hunter.

Boise State director of athletics Jeramiah Dickey told Tust the Broncos followed COVID-19 protocols that originally called for testing symptomatic and non-vaccinated players. Once Boise State hit a threshold where they had to test the entire team, the Broncos had enough positive tests to pull out of the Arizona Bowl. 

Allowing players a three-day break to go home for Christmas is non-negotiable for team's playing in bowl games after the holiday. 

The team had planned to fly to Tucson Tuesday ahead of Friday's scheduled bowl game. Central Michigan arrived in Arizona Sunday night.

In a statement released by the Arizona Bowl, officials said bowl executives are discussing options to invite another university to face off with Central Michigan in this year's game, which could include a change in the original Dec. 31 kickoff date. 

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl will be played,” chairman of the Arizona Bowl Board of Directors Ali Farhang said. “... Our Bowl leadership will exhaust every option to bring Tucson a Bowl experience this year.”

Junior quarterback Hank Bachmeier sent out a tweet about the Broncos dropping out of the bowl game and also gave an update about his lingering knee injury. Bachmeier said he damaged his meniscus back on Sept. 25 against Utah State and played the majority of the season with his injury. 

"It was an honor to play with this team," Bachmeier said. "We’ll be back and we will all be better. I’ll be better. For weeks, I’ve been asked about my knee. I damaged my meniscus vs USU and just played through it by bracing it. I’ll get it cleaned up now and then it’s on to gearing up for 2022."

Boise State earned bowl eligibility for the 24th-straight season in 2021, but Monday's news marks the third time in four seasons the Broncos will not play in a bowl game despite a winning record. 

The Broncos opted out of playing in a bowl game last year amid the pandemic, lost to Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2019 and the 2018 First Responder Bowl was ruled a no contest due to lighting in the first quarter against Boston College.

For the first time since the 1997 and 1998 seasons, Boise State will not play in a bowl game in back-to-back years.

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