Luke Combs Will Always Wonder About CMA Entertainer of the Year Because of Garth Brooks' Decision

Luke Combs is nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards this year for the first time, but even if he wins the honor, he'll always have a question at the back of his mind. In July, Garth Brooks, who has won CMA EOTY a record seven times, announced that he would be removing himself from future consideration for the award, a decision that will leave Combs wondering.

"I understand [Garth’s] move for sure," the "Better Together" singer told Elaina Smith on Nights With Elaina. "But then I also think to myself, when you’re in that conversation [for Entertainer of the Year], I have this competitive nature, I don’t just want to be the best, I want to beat the best, too. So I don’t want to sit at home and go, 'Well, maybe it was me, but maybe it was somebody else.'"

Brooks told media in July that he decided to remove himself from future consideration for EOTY after seeing a tweet following his 2019 win that read, "Hey man, this guy, why doesn't he step down and just have the entertainer be for the next generation?"

"100 percent agreed," Brooks said. "So with all the love in the world, all the great fun, because the last thing I want to do is seem ungrateful to the CMAs and everybody that has voted for us. We are officially pulling ourselves out of Entertainer of the Year. And my number is seven, you guys know that. And we feel very lucky with seven. And it's time for somebody else to hold that award, know what that Entertainer feels like. Because they're all out there busting their butts."

During his acceptance speech last year, the Oklahoma native gave a shoutout to Combs, who was in the audience, declaring that he would one day take home the honor.

"If they gave this award for this show tonight, I’d have to give it to Reba McEntire’s performance," he said. "Kelsea Ballerini, if you wanna know what an entertainer is, take a guitar and just a single voice in the middle of an arena and shrink a room: fantastic performance tonight. Luke Combs, wherever you’re at, this [CMA Entertainer of the Year award] has got your name on it in the future, I can tell you that right now."

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Combs reacted to the compliment minutes later backstage. "Pretty unbelievable stuff… Just standing up here as the CMA winner at all, let alone a multiple winner tonight is pretty unbelievable," he said via Country 102.5, referencing his two wins that night. "You know, I grew up listening to Garth. I know every song by heart. And for him to say something like that is pretty unreal. And the pressure is on I feel like for sure."

This year, Combs is nominated six times and is also performing during the broadcast. He is nominated for Entertainer of the Year alongside Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood. The 2020 CMA Awards will air Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.