A day after losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, USC Trojans elect to opt out of bowl season

USC is opting out of bowl opportunities this season because of COVID-19 concerns and other reasons, the team announced Saturday.

The 13th-ranked Trojans lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night in Los Angeles. USC would have landed a New Year's Six bowl berth if it had beaten Oregon to remain undefeated. The Trojans finished the season at 5-1.

The school said the decision to opt out of bowl games was made by USC's medical team, players, coach Clay Helton and athletic director Mike Bohn. USC said in a news release that COVID-19 cases have increased within the program, and, along with injuries, the Trojans are nearing the 53-player threshold needed to play a game.

The team played three games between Dec. 6 and Friday. USC also noted the rise in COVID-19 cases in the Los Angeles area and that its athletic teams that are not in season have paused activities until Jan. 4.

The Trojans are the fifth known Pac-12 team to opt out of the bowl season because of COVID-19 and other reasons, joining Stanford, Washington, UCLA and Utah.

"We are a student-athlete-centered athletics program; thus we fully support the decision to opt out of a bowl game this year," Bohn said in a statement. "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. 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.

"We are sincerely grateful for how our student-athletes, coaches and staff handled this unprecedented season and worked through so much adversity."

USC will not play in a bowl game for the second time in three years.

"We all share the desire to stay healthy and be with loved ones during the holidays and I fully support this collective decision," Helton said in a statement. "I thank our players for their remarkable efforts.

"We are all disappointed by how our season ended, but I am extremely proud of our players and it is an honor to be their coach."