The inaugural Fenway Bowl was canceled for the second year in a row, this time after a COVID-19 outbreak on the University of Virginia football team forced the Cavaliers to miss Wednesday’s matchup against Southern Methodist University at Fenway Park.
A year ago, the pandemic also shuttered the bowl’s scheduled debut.
The new annual bowl game, a production of Fenway Sports Management and ESPN Events, is slated to feature a game between American Athletic Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference teams. This year the event gained a title sponsor, Wasabi Technologies. VIP packages that included a tour of Fenway Park and a brunch and mimosas reception plus optional hotel accommodations were all canceled as well.
Refunds will be automatically issued to the credit card used to purchase tickets within two weeks.
“Though we all are disappointed that the Wasabi Fenway Bowl will not be played this year, we are grateful to our community partners, sponsors, volunteers, and stakeholders for their hard work to introduce college bowl season to Fenway Park,” said FSM in a statement. “We’d like to extend that appreciation to both schools and fanbases for their enthusiastic support. We look forward to seeing everyone at the 2022 Wasabi Fenway Bowl.”
The Cavaliers were going to fly to Boston on Christmas, but in the days leading up the departure, a number of players began to display symptoms and then tested positive for the virus, according to the university.
More positive tests on Sunday morning prevented “the team from safely participating in the game,” said Virginia athletic director Carla Williams in a statement.
“We want to thank the Fenway Bowl and its staff for their preparation to host the game and for their communication with us over the past few days,” Williams said.“We appreciate all of the hard work by our team and coaching staff. They earned this bowl invitation, and it is unfortunate they will not be able to compete in the game to complete the season. We regret how this also impacts our fans who were planning on attending the game as well as the SMU program and its fans.”
The game was going to mark the final game for Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall, who is stepping down after this season.
“We are extremely disappointed the team will not be able to participate in the inaugural Fenway Bowl,” said Williams. “Playing this game was something our team very much looked forward to and it is unfortunate Coach Mendenhall will not have one last opportunity to coach this group.”
Rick Hart, SMU’s AD, issued his own statement.
“I’m disappointed for our fans, and even more disappointed for our players, that we will be unable to play in a bowl game for the second straight season,” said Hart. “We are, however, sympathetic to Virginia’s situation, having had to withdraw from our bowl last season due to COVID. We hope those impacted get well soon.”