College Sports

Cancellation of Military Bowl a crushing blow for Boston College and bowl organizers

Michael Dwyer
Coach Jeff Hafley's BC team finished 6-6, with a lost opportunity to get over .500 against East Carolina.


On Sunday morning, with the Military Bowl between Boston College and East Carolina less than 30 hours away, Steve Beck exited a walk-through NCAA administrative meeting and reconvened with the athletic directors from both schools in the hallway.

When Beck, the Military Bowl Foundation’s president and executive director, returned from a gut-wrenching conversation with BC AD Pat Kraft and ECU AD Jon Gilbert, he broke the news that all parties hoped not to hear. The game was officially canceled, because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the BC program, and there would be no makeup date.

“The room felt like a funeral,” said a Military Bowl Foundation staff member.

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The Eagles had more than 40 players unavailable, many because of COVID-19 and others because of injury. According to a BC spokesman, the team had one positive result the day they left Boston, a handful more on Christmas Day, and more Sunday.

One position group was completely out, so playing the game simply wasn’t feasible, according to the spokesman.

“Unfortunately, we just got hit at the wrong time,” he said.

This is the second straight year the Military Bowl was canceled and the second consecutive year BC has skipped a bowl.

Last season, the Eagles became the first team in the nation to opt out of bowl consideration, choosing to spend time with family members instead. This year, they intended to play, and even traveled to the Washington/Maryland area before learning their fate the day before the game. It was a dissatisfying outcome for a team that has now missed out on a bowl game three of the last four seasons.

“This is not the way we wanted to see this season come to an end,” coach Jeff Hafley said.

After arriving in the area last week, the Eagles visited the Museum of African American History, among other sights. They also put together care packages for active service members and spent time bonding. They had collectively decided that it was worth it to miss Christmas with their families and were grateful to spend the day with one another.

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Beck called the decision “very disappointing but understandable,” adding that it put the foundation in a difficult position to fulfill its mission of helping men and women in uniform. He said there was nothing anybody could have done differently, and it was tough to say whether the Eagles flying down the day before the game would have helped.

It’s simply a harsh reality — around the sports world and the world in general — that planned events won’t always come to fruition.

Beck said the foundation considered finding a new opponent for East Carolina but there weren’t any options that made sense for all involved.

The foundation staff member said everyone knew the situation was tenuous going in but the expectation was that the game would take place. When it didn’t, adjusting was somewhat of a whirlwind.

“You’re in a little bit of crisis mode,” the staff member said. “How do we handle refunds? What do we have to do? This isn’t something we’re set up for.”

With eight Medal of Honor recipients slated to attend the game, staff members had to call them to tell them not to come. One from South Dakota was already in the air, others from South Carolina and North Carolina got off their plane just in time, and one driving from North Carolina turned around and headed home.

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It’s a difficult fate to digest for an organization that put in a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes. i

“We’ll make it through,” Beck said. “Hopefully next year this won’t be around. I didn’t think it would be around this year.”

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