After winning their home tournament for the first time in five years, the UTEP men's basketball team won't have an opportunity to defend the Sun Bowl Invitational trophy in 2020.

The Sun Bowl Association announced Monday that the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational will be canceled this year. It is the first time since the tournament started in 1961 that it has been outright canceled. The tournament didn't take place in 2008 because they couldn't field the teams necessary to hold the invitational.

This year's tournament was canceled due to scheduling issues amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

UTEP head coach Rodney Terry previously said on the Picks Up Podcast in the summer about the Sun Bowl Invitational having two top mid-major opponents: "We have two really good opponents that were league champions that will be coming to the Tournament. That field is going to be very competitive."

Of course, the teams endured many changes since then.

Sources told 600 ESPN El Paso last week that rival teams like New Mexico and NM State were in the conversation to join the field. However, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not approve a return-to-play model for the universities in the state, citing COVID-19 statewide public health orders. By restricting the colleges from returning to practice and play, both colleges in New Mexico would likely be out of the picture for the Sun Bowl Invitational.

“The Sun Bowl [Association] was prepared to host one of its strongest fields featuring three defending conference champions,” Barry Kobren said in a release. “Given the difficulties we are all experiencing, it became apparent that these three schools would not be able to participate next month, so we are looking forward to an even better event next year, that we can all attend.

“I especially want to thank WestStar and the [basketball] staff at UTEP for their understanding and support throughout these trying times,” Kobren said.

“It is unfortunate that a 59-year-old tradition has to be canceled due to the issues the Covid-19 virus has presented,” said Bernie Olivas in a release. “I would like to assure everybody that this is a one-year cancellation, and we will be back in 2021 with a strong and stellar field. I would like to thank WestStar and UTEP for their understanding in the decision to cancel the tournament in 2020.”

The 2020-21 UTEP men's basketball schedule has not yet been released. College basketball is supposed to get underway next Wednesday, Nov. 25.

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