The 2021 East-West Shrine Bowl has been canceled due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event's organizers announced on Tuesday.
The annual college football all-star game -- the oldest event of its kind -- was scheduled to be played on Jan. 23 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
"It's terribly disappointing to have to cancel this year's game, but there are so many issues involved with bringing in approximately 130 players and 25 NFL coaches from every corner of the United States and Canada," stated East-West Shrine Bowl executive director Bob Roller in a release published on the game's website. "It's difficult enough currently for these college teams to provide some sort of a bubble during the regular season, but our game occurs after all players have gone home for the holidays. It presented too many potential issues for this one year."
The game annually draws NFL personnel executives from across the league and benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children, which provides medical care regardless of a family's ability to pay for services. Pro Football Hall of Famers John Elway, Brett Favre, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus and Roger Staubach are among the alums of the event. Ninety-eight players who participated in the 2020 Shrine Bowl are currently on NFL rosters, per the release. That includes Jaguars rookie RB James Robinson, who ranks seventh in the league with 481 rushing yards.
Roller also stated that players eligible for the 2021 Shrine Bowl will still receive formal invitations to become part of a tradition that dates back to 1925.