FLORIDA — Rutgers will replace Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl against Wake Forest after an NCAA committee decided Thursday to adhere to an existing policy for making teams with 5-7 records bowl eligible.
The NCAA football oversight committee also announced that any bowl game can be moved to as late as Jan. 10 if the schools involved need additional time to prepare for competition.
Neither Rutgers nor the Gator Bowl immediately confirmed the Scarlet Knights would be playing in the game or whether it would still be played on Dec. 31, but the the school did tease a formal announcement on social media.
“Better late than never,” read a tweet from the Rutgers football account. “The Scarlet Knights are going BOWLING.”
Official word from the Gator Bowl was expected later Thursday.
Texas A&M pulled out of the Jacksonville, Florida, game on Wednesday because of a lack of available players. The Aggies were having issues with COVID-19, plus they already had been depleted by injuries, opt-outs and players transferring.
NCAA rules allow teams with 5-7 records, such as Rutgers, to be bowl eligible if there are not enough six-win teams to fill all the spots. The 5-7 teams with the highest Academic Progress Rate scores have first crack at open slots. Rutgers is atop that list, though the NCAA did not release the full APR rankings to allow schools to privately decline a bowl bid.
Rutgers be making its first bowl appearance since 2014, its first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Having Rutgers replace Texas A&M on short notice was not a foregone conclusion for the oversight committee — even after Rutgers officials informed decision-makers on Wednesday that they believed the team could be reassembled quickly.
The Scarlet Knights have not played since Thanksgiving weekend and the team has not been practicing or working out together.
There was some concern among oversight committee members about the safety of having a team compete with barely a week to prepare, and at least some consideration given to having a team that already has played a bowl facing Wake Forest, or simply not filling the spot and having the game be canceled.
Ultimately, the committee chose to stick with existing policy under unusual circumstances.