Due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests among its student-athletes, coaches and staff following Mizzou football’s final regular-season game, the football program is pausing all team activities through January 2, and will be unable to participate in Wednesday’s Music City Bowl against the University of Iowa, Director of Athletics Jim Sterk announced on Sunday.
“Since concluding our regular season and conducting four rounds of tests over the last eight days, we have seen a significant increase in positive COVID-19 tests among our student-athletes, coaches and staff, and after consulting with local health officials, our team physicians and MU Health’s Dr. Steve Whitt, who is our representative on the SEC Medical Task Force, we unfortunately must pause all football team-related activities until at least January 2 to help contain the virus’ spread and ensure the health and well-being of everyone within our program and the community,” Sterk said.
“Our student-athletes have been extremely diligent in following all of the SEC’s COVID-19 testing protocols since returning to campus back in the summer, and we are incredibly proud of their efforts to play every regular-season game this fall, as well as the success they have had on the field against a 10-game all-SEC schedule that included five games against nationally-ranked opponents, and in the classroom during the fall semester,” he added. “However, this eight-day uptick within our program is significant and has made it impossible for us to play in the bowl game, which I know comes as a disappointment to our student-athletes, coaches and fans, who were excited about the opportunity to play a great Iowa team in Nashville.”
While the Tigers were picked to finish sixth in the SEC East by preseason pundits, Mizzou finished third in the division with its 5-5 record under the direction of first-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz. Drinkwitz, who joined Warren Powers as the only first-year Mizzou head coaches to earn bowl invitations in their debut seasons in Columbia, became only the fourth, first-year Tiger coach to win five or more games in the Associated Press Poll Era (1936-present), joining Powers (8 wins in 1978), Frank Broyles and Dan Devine, who both registered five wins in 1957 and 1958, respectively.
“Our football student athletes, the coaches and intercollegiate athletics staff have done an outstanding job representing the University of Missouri on and off the field this year,” said Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri. “All of us have been proud of them and what they have accomplished this season. This is, of course, disappointing news, but we look forward to cheering on the team taking the field next fall and representing the University of Missouri with true Tiger spirit.”
Mizzou’s five SEC wins in 2020 were its most since posting back-to-back 7-1 campaigns en route to SEC East division titles in 2013 and 2014. The Tigers have now registered four-consecutive .500 or better seasons for the first time since a seven-year run from 2005 through 2011.
“I am disappointed that we were not able to finish the season against a tremendous opponent in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl later this week,” Drinkwitz said. “I am extremely proud of the fight and resiliency that our players have shown throughout this challenging season. This is the eighth time in 11 games we’ve been faced with a schedule adjustment, but we’ve been able to fight through and finish while competing at a very high level throughout the season, which I believe shows the true character of our team. We look forward to returning to Nashville to play in a future Music City Bowl, and experiencing all that this great bowl game offers.”