Tennessee will not play in a bowl game after all after it was forced to pause all team activities after COVID-19 test results “revealed an increase in positive cases among student-athletes and staff and subsequent contact tracing,” resulting in the Vols being unable to participate in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
The Vols were slated to face West Virginia on Dec. 31 in Memphis. The Liberty Bowl announced that Army will replace Tennessee for the New Year’s Eve showdown with West Virginia.
The decision was made in consultation with health officials, the Southeastern Conference and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
“The University of Tennessee extends its sincere appreciation to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the city of Memphis and is disappointed it will not be able to fulfill its commitment on New Year’s Eve,” read an athletic department statement.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was one of those within the program who tested positive.
“Earlier today, I was informed by our medical staff that I have tested positive for COVID-19, and I immediately began isolating at home,” Pruitt said in a university release. “I am experiencing mild symptoms but doing fine. We are obviously disappointed that we will not be able to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but the health and safety of our student-athletes will always remain our top priority.
“I am especially proud of our team and medical staff in safely navigating through a unique season where we played all 10 of our regular-season games.”
The Vols finishes a disappointing 2020 campaign with a 3-7 record, marking the fewest amount of wins the program has had in a season since 1924. It is the third time in the last four seasons that they will not play in a postseason bowl game.