A day after accepting a bid to play in the 2020 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Tennessee has backed out of the matchup with West Virginia due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Vols' program.
"After receiving Sunday's COVID-19 test results, the University of Tennessee football program has paused all team activities and will be unable to compete in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl," Tennessee said in a statement released Monday. "The test results revealed an increase in positive cases among student-athletes and staff and subsequent contact tracing. The decision was made in consultation with health officials, the Southeastern Conference and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The student-athletes and staff affected are taking the appropriate safety measures in accordance with University, CDC and local health department guidelines. The University of Tennessee extends its sincere appreciation to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the city of Memphis and is disappointed it will not be able to fulfill its commitment on New Year's Eve."
Included in the positive COVID-19 tests were head coach Jeremy Pruitt as well as other assistant coaches and players.
"Earlier today, I was informed by our medical staff that I have tested positive for COVID-19, and I immediately began isolating at home," Pruitt said. "I am experiencing mild symptoms but doing fine. We are obviously disappointed that we will not be able to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but the health and safety of our student-athletes will always remain our top priority. I am especially proud of our team and medical staff in safely navigating through a unique season where we played all 10 of our regular-season games."
The cancelation comes just two days after the Vols lost their regular season finale in a 34-13 loss to Texas A&M in which assistant coaches Derrick Ansley and Jay Graham weren't able to coach due to being in quarantine.
Tennessee ends Pruitt's third season 3-7 after losing seven of its final eight games.
The Liberty Bowl will now look for a replacement for Tennessee which could likely be Army, who despite going 9-2 wasn't selected for a bowl game.