USC opts out of bowl game to finish season 5-1

This is the second time in three seasons USC has not played in a bowl game. (James Wolfe / Daily Trojan)

USC announced Saturday evening it has opted out of a bowl game, bringing the 2020 season to a close with the team at 5-1.

In a team-issued statement, USC said the decision was made by players and staff, including members of the medical team, athletic director Mike Bohn and head coach Clay Helton. The statement said the decision was made in response to recommendations from its medical staff and discussions with the team’s leadership council. 

The team said that by opting out of the game, players will have the opportunity to spend the holidays with their family members after being isolated due to coronavirus protocols during the season.

The team cited injuries as part of the reason for the decision, after USC played three games in the span of 13 days to close out the season. 

“They did everything we asked of them to abide by the challenging guidelines they had to follow to stay safe and well, whether it was daily testing or keeping distant from family and friends or training in less-than-ideal ways,” Helton said in the statement. “It has not been easy, and it is hard for anyone outside the program to understand how immensely difficult these past few months have been for them.”

Bohn said the athletic department “fully supports” the decision to opt out of a bowl game.

“The physical and mental health and the safety of our student-athletes is paramount, and this season has been unimaginably taxing on our players in particular,” Bohn said in the statement. “This will allow them to be with their families who they haven’t seen for a long time and begin preparing for their spring semester academics.”

The University also said all sports that are not in season have had team activities suspended through Jan. 4, 2021 as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the Los Angeles area. The men’s basketball team is currently in a 14-day quarantine due to a positive case within the program. 

After losing the Pac-12 Championship Game, USC missed out on an automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl, a traditional member of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. This will mark the second time in three seasons that USC has not played in a bowl game. The team finished 5-7 and failed to reach bowl eligibility in 2018.