By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
Rutgers will be given the opportunity to fill in for 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.
Texas A&M pulled out of the Jacksonville, Florida, game scheduled for Dec. 31 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.
Neither Rutgers nor the Gator Bowl confirmed that the Scarlet Knights would be playing in the game or even if it would still be played on Dec. 31.
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 adhere as as closely as possible to existing policy under unusual circumstances.
If Rutgers accepts the opportunity, it will be making its first bowl appearance since 2014, its first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
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