Rutgers will replace Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl against Wake Forest after an NCAA committee decided Thursday to adhere to an existing policy for making teams with 5-7 records bowl eligible.
The NCAA football oversight committee also announced that any bowl can be moved to as late as Jan. 10 if the schools involved need additional time to prepare for the game.
The Gator Bowl will keep its scheduled date and 10 a.m. Chicago time kickoff time on New Year’s Eve, meaning Rutgers will have less than a week to get ready to play one of the highest-scoring teams in the country.
“Better late than never,” read a tweet from the Rutgers football account. “The Scarlet Knights are going BOWLING.”
Rutgers will be making its first bowl appearance since 2014, its first season as a member of the Big Ten.
“This program has made great strides under the leadership of head coach Greg Schiano and what better way to showcase that than at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “It is an equally exciting time for our Rutgers fans to be part of this marquee game.”
Texas A&M pulled out of the Jacksonville, Florida, game on Wednesday because of a lack of available players. The Aggies were having issues with COVID-19, plus they already had been depleted by injuries, opt-outs and players transferring.
NCAA rules allow teams with 5-7 records, such as Rutgers, to be bowl eligible if there are not enough six-win teams to fill all the spots. The 5-7 teams with the highest Academic Progress Rate scores have first crack at open slots. Rutgers is atop that list, though the NCAA did not release the full APR rankings to allow schools to privately decline a bowl bid.
Having Rutgers replace Texas A&M on short notice was not a foregone conclusion for the oversight committee — even after Rutgers officials informed decision-makers on Wednesday that they believed the team could be reassembled quickly.
The Scarlet Knights have not played since Thanksgiving weekend and the team has not been practicing or working out together.
There was some concern among oversight committee members about the safety of having a team compete with so little time to prepare. At least some consideration was given to having a team that already has played a bowl face Wake Forest, or simply not filling the spot and having the game be canceled.
Ultimately, the committee chose to stick with an existing policy under unusual circumstances.
“The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl team has done an amazing job of pivoting in these circumstances,” bowl CEO Brian Rhodes said in a statement. “We wish the Aggies a speedy recovery, and we are looking forward to a great bowl game between Wake Forest and Rutgers.”