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Sun Belt Championship game is cancelled

Saturday's showdown between Coastal Carolina and Louisiana will not be played due to COVID-19 issues within the Coastal Carolina program.
Credit: AP
Troy defensive back Richard Jibunor (9) chases Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall (10) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Troy, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

The highly anticipated showdown between Coastal Carolina and Louisiana for Sun Belt Conference championship will not be played.

The contest between ninth-ranked Coastal Carolina and No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette was canceled Thursday because of a positive COVID-19 test within the Coastal Carolina program. According to the Associated Press, an entire position group would have been unavailable to play because of contact tracing. 

Both schools were position for an appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl with a victory. The Chanticleers (11-0) recorded their first undefeated regular season and are currently ranked ninth in the Associated Press and 12th in both the Coaches Poll and the College Football Playoff rankings. This news comes in the same week that head coach Jamey Chadwell and the school agreed to a new contract, defensive coordinator Chad Staggs was named a semifinalist for the Broyles Award and quarterback Grayson McCall was named a finalist for the Manning Award. 

It was a couple of weeks ago when COVID-19 issues with the Liberty football program led to Coastal Carolina scheduling BYU in an impromptu top 15 showdown. The Chanticleers won that game, adding to their resume as one of college football's feel good stories for 2020. But now, the Chanticleers are dealing with the intense sadness of not being able to play for the Sun Belt title.

“We are very disappointed that the championship game cannot be played, but we are so proud of all of the players and staff members and their hard work during this truly challenging season,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill. 

“We will honor both teams as 2020 Sun Belt Conference Co-Champions.”

Coastal Carolina and Louisiana will now turn their attention to their respective bowl games. They should learn their destinations on Sunday.

“We are all obviously devastated with this development and hurt for the student-athletes from both institutions in that they will not have a chance to compete for a conference title,” said Coastal Carolina Director of Athletics Matt Hogue. 

“However, the adherence to health and safety protocols for our student-athletes has been and remains the first priority. Those protocols and guidance from our medical team fully governs this decision.”

Both No. 9 Coastal Carolina (11-0, 8-0 Sun Belt) and No. 17 Louisiana (9-1, 7-1) will prepare for their postseason bowl games, which have not yet been determined.