Both teams lost opponents to COVID-19 issues. Miami withdrew from the Sun Bowl on Sunday, sending the bowl scrambling for an opponent for the Cougars. That spot was filled by the Chippewas after their scheduled opponent, Boise State, withdrew from the Barstool Arizona Bowl on Monday.
The bowl games and respective conferences worked out an arrangement for the Sun Bowl to move forward with a game, while the Arizona Bowl became the fourth bowl game to be canceled for COVID-19 reasons.
"We are grateful for the diligent work of the Sun Bowl Association, the Pac-12 Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Central Michigan University to ensure the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will be played," Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement. "A special thank you to CMU's director of athletics Amy Folan and head coach Jim McElwain for prioritizing the bowl experience for both teams, especially the seniors who will be playing their final college football game."
Washington State arrived in El Paso, Texas, for the Sun Bowl on Sunday, only hours before Miami announced it would not be able to play. Central Michigan was already in Tucson, Arizona, preparing for the Arizona Bowl. In a statement, the Sun Bowl said, "Being a four-hour drive from El Paso, the Chippewas are set up logistically to make the trip and compete on Friday."