The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl — considered one of six New Yr’s Day Six Bowls — comes into concentrate on Jan. 1 with a matchup between Georgia and Cincinnati.  

It marks the third time an unbeaten Group of 5 crew has performed within the bowl in seven years — and the Bearcats will attempt to keep their unbeaten season in opposition to the in-state Bulldogs. It ought to be an thrilling matchup that generates storylines in regards to the G5’s position within the School Soccer Playoff construction.  

Behind the scenes, nonetheless, there’s a totally different type of recreation day preparation, one which began with the disappointment created by the continued COVID-19 pandemic in the USA. Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan remembers that disappointment after the cancellation of all three Chick-fil-A Kickoff video games — which have been to performed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta from Sept. 5-12.  

A blockbuster weekend that featured matchups between West Virginia and Florida (Sept. 5), Georgia and Virginia (Sept. 7) and North Carolina and Auburn (Sept. 12) was worn out. The purpose modified from “biggest opening weekend” to “most secure Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl doable.”  

With that, Stokan likes to make use of considered one of his favourite phrases: “An perspective of gratitude.” 

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“It was good in a technique that we did a whole lot of homework and had a whole lot of finest practices for the bowl recreation,” Stokan informed Sporting Information. “However it was very disappointing as a result of we put in a lot work and energy with these six groups solely to be informed we needed to cancel the video games.” 

A complete of 18 bowl video games have been canceled this yr; the newest the Texas Bowl matchup between Arkansas and TCU. The Peach Bowl stays on for Friday and can function the undercard for the 2 School Soccer Playoff semifinals.  

Stokan stated weekly planning conversations with the opposite New Yr’s Day Six CEOs and the School Soccer Playoff committee made that doable. Stokan additionally watched occasions with the Atlanta United within the MLS and the Atlanta Falcons within the NFL at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  

The stadium seats 75,000, however for the Peach Bowl it will likely be at 25 % capability between 16,000-17,000 followers. Stokan ran down the protocols, which embrace seating pods of two and 4.  

Masks are required – and shall be out there on the gates. Solely important personnel shall be allowed on the sphere. No shows on the sphere are allowed, and there shall be no bands, cheerleaders or mascots.  

After all, there are strict detailed COVID-19 testing protocols, too.  

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“We’ll take a look at all the employees, all of our workers, all the individuals getting on the sphere all of the ESPN individuals and all of the officers,” he stated. “This has been a unique type of problem than we have ever had.”  

Stokan, a former North Carolina State assistant basketball coach, additionally created a depth chart for the Peach Bowl workers and volunteers with the intention to shift obligations in case of COVID-19 coaches.   

“You at all times must have a subsequent particular person up mentality and have that second-team man ready if the primary crew particular person goes down,” he stated. “We needed to create a next-person up succession plan on our workers and with our volunteers in case somebody needed to be quarantined day of or week of. That is distinctive. There is no doubt about that.” 

From that facet, Stokan appreciates the schedule tweaking the Energy 5 conferences have been capable of negotiate through the season. The SEC had simply two video games canceled in its 2020 season.  

“I actually do admire, it may possibly’t be stated sufficient, what the medical individuals, coaches, the ADs, the staffs the gamers the trainers have actually executed to have one recreation,” Stokan stated. “It is outstanding to me that we have been capable of have a school soccer season.”

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Stokan stated the draw back will not be having the groups there for your complete week, and that is not only for the Battle for Bowl Week actions. Atlanta minister C.T. Younger, former mayor Andrew Younger and members of the Ebenezer Baptist Church – which was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church – usually communicate to the student-athletes through the week.  

“Right here this yr, when it is of the best issues of curiosity, we’re not capable of have that,” Stokan stated. “That’s disappointing.” 

Regardless of all that, Stokan maintains a optimistic outlook.  

Stokan is also appreciative of this yr’s matchup and the implications from that recreation. The Group of 5 crew gained the 2 earlier matchups. Houston defeated Florida State 38-24 in 2015, and UCF beat Auburn 34-27 in 2018. Stokan expects that the matchup between the Bulldogs and Bearcats ought to be simply as entertaining.  

“That is faculty soccer, however on the finish of the day each groups in Florida State-Houston and Auburn-UCF, they have been able to play,” Stokan stated. “I went to each observe, and there wasn’t a crew that did not wish to be there. In anybody recreation, something can occur.”