Central Michigan switches to Sun Bowl, will now play Washington State

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Central Michigan football team arrived in Tucson, Arizona, on Sunday.

The Chippewas didn't stay long.

Central Michigan on Monday afternoon learned that Boise State wouldn't be able to play in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, scheduled for Friday. The Broncos, who hadn't yet traveled to Tucson, don't have enough eligible players because of COVID, which already had canceled three other bowl games.

Head coach Jim McElwain leads Central Michigan into Friday's Sun Bowl.

So, after hours of hastily called meetings and negotiations, the Chippewas (8-4) agreed to move to the Sun Bowl, four-and-a-half hours away in El Paso, Texas, where they'll face Washington State (7-5) at noon Friday. Washington State was looking for a replacement team after Miami (Fla.) had to drop out because of COVID.

"We are grateful for the diligent work of the Sun Bowl Association, the Pac-12 Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Central Michigan University to ensure the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will be played," Washington State athletics director Pat Chun said in a statement Monday night. "A special thank you to CMU's director of athletics Amy Folan and head coach Jim McElwain for prioritizing the bowl experience for both teams, especially the seniors who will be playing their final college football game."

Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports and a Michigan alum, made the Boise State announcement on Twitter, and said then that the bowl was actively seeking a replacement — one of his first follow-up tweets tagged Nebraska. Portnoy wanted to preserve the first bowl game with Barstool Sports as a title sponsor, but that was never going to be an easy fix given any replacement would be a team that hasn't practiced in several weeks, and most likely has most of its players at home for the holidays.

Portnoy said on Twitter on Monday night that Washington State was unwilling to move to the Arizona Bowl, and that Central Michigan was open to moving to the Sun Bowl.

"It sucks," Portnoy wrote on Twitter? "The Az Bowl Committee did everything in power to save the game. Huge loss of money for us and them.

"Came down to money."

The Sun Bowl has a payout over $4 million, and the Arizona Bowl less than $400,000. The Sun Bowl also is set to air on CBS, while the Arizona Bowl was to be the only bowl game not on linear television, rather scheduled to be streamed at BarstoolSports.com.

More: Here is a look at the 2021-22 college bowl schedule, results

Central Michigan and the MAC aren't expected to receive the full payout from the Sun Bowl; parties from the schools, conferences and bowl committee were negotiating a payout throughout the day Monday. Financial terms weren't immediately disclosed.

The three other bowl games canceled include the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24, Hawaii-Memphis), Military Bowl (Dec. 27, Boston College-East Carolina) and Fenway Bowl (Dec. 29, Virginia-SMU). The Gator Bowl survived, with Rutgers replacing Texas A&M in the game against Wake Forest on Dec. 31.

The Chippewas will play their 13th bowl, looking for their first win since 2012 in Detroit.

Word of concern with Boise State (7-5) started circulating Monday morning, and by Monday night, the players had received their tests back.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984