Memphis to spend up to $200 million renovating Liberty Bowl

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The city of Memphis and the University of Memphis will be spending at least $150 million to renovate and renovate the home of the annual Liberty Bowl before the 2025 season.

The renovation announced Thursday could reach $200 million for the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.

Memphis studied options of renovating the current stadium or building a new one. The renovation project also could help make Memphis more attractive to a Power Five conference looking to expand.

“It will optimize our position in the rapidly evolving landscape of intercollegiate athletics in a more manageable and efficient timeframe,” Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch said. “This is the most strategically achievable option for us to pursue and make a game-changing impact at a critical time for our program.”

The project plans to change the west side with new premium seating options, a hospitality halo space around the stadium, adding family boxes in the north end zone area and party deck patios for students in the south end.

Hawaii Bowl canceled on eve of game after Hawaii pulls out

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
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HONOLULU — The Hawaii Bowl was canceled Thursday after Hawaii withdrew from its game against Memphis on the eve of the contest because of COVID-19, season-ending injuries and transfers.

“We are disappointed our season has to end this way,” Hawaii coach Todd Graham said in a statement. “As competitive as we are and as much as we want to play the game, we cannot put the health and safety of our student-athletes at risk.”

The game was scheduled for Friday at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex.

Hawaii athletic department spokesperson Derek Inouchi said about 30 players and staff recently tested positive for COVID-19. Cases have been surging in Honolulu for the past two weeks. Oahu’s seven-day average of new cases was 11 times higher on Thursday compared to Dec. 8

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is the most important part of this decision,” Hawaii athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has forced us to not participate in the game. We are disappointed for our players, coaches, and fans. ESPN and the EasyPost Hawaii Bowl staff did everything they could for us and we appreciate their valiant effort throughout the week. We want to thank the Memphis Tigers for making the long trip to Hawaii. We are disappointed we can’t compete on the football field.”

The Hawaii Bowl is one of several postseason games ESPN owns and operates.

“While we are disappointed that the bowl will not be played despite considerable efforts from our many stakeholders, sponsors, supporters, and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this game a reality, we thank the University of Memphis and its fans for making the long trip, and we hope they were able to enjoy the unique experience that this event offers in the Aloha state,” ESPN said in a statement.

Hawaii finished the season 6-7, getting into the bowl because there were no available 6-6 teams. Memphis finished 6-6.

“We are very disappointed to hear that Hawaii will be unable to participate,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said in a statement. “We hope that Hawaii players and staff get healthy soon. I’m upset for our seniors and the rest of the team that battled this season to earn this opportunity. We’ve had terrific time here in Hawaii as a program and we are sad our trip ended this way.”

Tune has TDs passing, rushing, No. 17 Houston beats Memphis

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON – Clayton Tune threw for 264 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score as No. 17 Houston extended its winning streak to 10 games with a 31-13 victory over Memphis on Friday night.

Tune tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Nathaniel Dell in the second quarter but was picked off twice, the first snapping a streak of 192 attempts without an interception. The QB also rushed for 59 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown as the Cougars (10-1, 8-0 American Athletic Conference) built a 21-3 lead at halftime.

“We just hammer through whatever adversity we are faced with,” Tune said. “Whatever challenges it is for that week, we keep hammering and playing. Don’t let outside noise and distractions get in the way of what we are trying to do. It just speaks to the character of this team and what we know we can do.”

Ta'Zhawn Henry rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown and Alton McCaskill rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown. Dell caught seven passes for 100 yards and Jeremy Singleton finished with five catches for 80 yards.

Houston gained 461 yards and was 8 of 15 on third downs.

Houston went undefeated in conference play for the second time in school history, matching the 2011 team.

“We are a good team,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We finished the American 8-0. We’ve won 10 in a row. It’s hard to win in college football. It’s hard to win every week … I’m very proud of this football team.”

Seth Henigan threw for 208 yards and a touchdown for Memphis (5-6, 2-5), while Calvin Austin III had five catches for 103 yards. The Tigers gained 322 yards.

“There’s frustration, there’s hurt, there’s anger in the locker room and there should be,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “I’m all those things. . It starts with me, and I am frustrated. We’ve got to find a way. Our players are frustrated, and I understand. We didn’t execute the way we needed to, the way we are capable of.”

Asa Martin caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Henigan, and David Kemp made a 22-yard field goal to cut the lead to eight early in the fourth quarter.

Following two straight three-and-out drives by Memphis, Dalton Witherspoon connected on a 34-yard field goal with 3:24 remaining to put Houston up by 11.

THE TAKEAWAY

Memphis: The Tigers closed within eight and had momentum, but could not finish, gaining 23 yards in the fourth quarter. Memphis finished 2 for 14 on third downs and 2 for 4 on fourth downs.

“Our kids haven’t quit,” Silverfield said. “They’re fighting, they’re caring, they’re working. It’s just not showing in results, and that’s my job to figure out a way to get that done.”

Houston: Marcus Jones had two interceptions, his fourth straight game with at least one pick. The Cougars were called for 11 penalties totaling 122 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Holgorsen. He called the penalties “mind-blowing.”

SCARY INJURY

Houston junior linebacker Donavan Mutin was taken off the field on a stretcher after tackling Martin with 12 minutes remaining in the first quarter. After the tackle, Mutin’s teammates immediately surrounded him as trainers and personnel rushed on to the field. The entire Houston team came out near the hashmarks on the far side and watched as Mutin was strapped on a backboard, loaded on to a stretcher and wheeled off the field.

Mutin was taken a hospital as a precaution and was alert and talking, the school announced.

Mutin entered the game tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles. He has five tackles for loss, including two sacks.

“Donnie is our emotional leader and team captain,” Holgorsen said. “We were out there for a while. In my 11, 12 years of being a head coach, I’ve never had that. I’ve never had a kid taken off on a stretcher. That was dire. He was moving and talking toward the end of it. It took him awhile to wake up. He was breathing.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Cougars should at least maintain their position in the poll.

UP NEXT

Memphis: Hosts Tulane on Nov. 27.

Houston: At UConn on Nov. 27 to end the regular season.