On December 7, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey declared for the NFL Draft and said that the upcoming matchup against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl would be his final college game. Today, McCaffrey announced that he would not play in the Sun Bowl to prepare for the draft.
— Christian McCaffrey (@CMccaffrey5) December 19, 2016
Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas told local media Monday that even though he was surprised at the news, he understands the thorough process of McCaffrey’s decision to sit out the game.
“We’re disappointed that Christian McCaffrey is not going to play in the game, but at the same time we’re not disappointed in his decision,” Olivas said, “Yes, it would have been a great opportunity to see one of the best running backs in the country play, but he was hurt earlier in the year and I think he’s looking out for himself so I can’t blame him for trying to protect himself.”
Olivas emphasized that they don’t select teams based on one particular player or who is going to be there and is still looking forward to a high-level matchup between the Cardinal and North Carolina, who are led by another potential top draft pick in quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
“One player doesn’t make or break a bowl game,” Olivas said, “We picked both teams for who they were and not just on one player.”
As for attendance, Olivas is confident that the game will have a strong turnout, calling ticket sales “brisk”. In its history, the Sun Bowl has a very strong tradition of local support. The last time that Stanford played in El Paso, they matched up against Oklahoma in front of a crowd of 53,713. The official listed capacity of the Sun Bowl is 51,500.
While some have speculated that with players like McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette sitting out bowl games is the beginning of a trend, Olivas doesn’t feel that way.
“On an individual basis, you see a lot of great players in bowl games that aren’t part of the final four (playoffs). I don’t think this is a trend and I don’t think that this is starting anything.”
Olivas did say that he does expect McCaffrey will still travel with the team for the game. The team arrives in El Paso next week.