Tennessee withdraws from Liberty Bowl due to COVID testing

Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has withdrawn from the Liberty Bowl because of COVID-19 test results, becoming the first team to back out since bowl berths were announced.

Tennessee released a statement Monday, a day after agreeing to play West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31. Tennessee paused all football activities after receiving the results of Sunday’s testing.

“The test results revealed an increase in positive cases among student-athletes and staff and subsequent contact tracing,” the statement said. “The decision was made in consultation with health officials, the Southeastern Conference and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.”

The Volunteers will end their season at 3-7 with losses in seven of their final eight games. They lost 34-13 to No. 5 Texas A&M on Saturday.

Third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt is among those who tested positive. Pruitt said he was informed earlier Monday that he had tested positive and began isolating at home.

“I am experiencing mild symptoms but doing fine,” Pruitt said. “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.”

Bowl officials did not immediately announce a replacement for Tennessee.