College Football Playoff semifinal moved from Rose Bowl to Texas; USC won't play in bowl game
The College Football Playoff semifinal scheduled to be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 1 is relocating to the Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Texas, a move prompted by California's ban on spectators at sporting events during the pandemic.
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said Saturday night that conference commissioners who make up the CFP management committee and the Tournament of Roses mutually agreed to relocate the game because of the "growing number of COVID-19 cases in Southern California."
"The game in Dallas will still be played in the mid-afternoon window on New Year's Day," Hancock said in a statement. "We are pleased that parents and loved ones will now be able to see their students play in the game."
The decision, announced about 13 hours before the playoff field was scheduled to be set Sunday, is just the latest twist during a college football season played through myriad COVID-19 disruptions.
The Rose Bowl, know as the Granddaddy of all college football's postseason games, has been played every year since 1916.
Coaches and school officials with playoff contenders have complained about the Rose Bowl being unable to accommodate players' family members because of California's COVID-19 restrictions, put in a place as the state tries to fight a public health crisis that is straining its hospitals.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly even suggested that if the Fighting Irish were selected to play in the Rose Bowl, the school would boycott if players could not have family attend.
None of the teams in contention to be selected for the playoff are from the western United States.
The Rose Bowl asked the state for an exception to the restriction, but was denied twice, including earlier this week. The restrictions have been in place since March and UCLA has played its home football games at the Rose Bowl since November, including its regular-season finale Saturday night.
"We know that the decision was not an easy one to make," said David Eads, Tournament of Roses CEO and Executive Director. "While we remain confident that a game could have been played at the Rose Bowl Stadium, as evident in the other collegiate and professional games taking place in the region, the projection of COVID-19 cases in the region has continued on an upward trend."
The other College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1 will be held in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl, with current plans to allow 3,000 fans at the Superdome. The championship game is scheduled for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Hancock said it had not yet been determined if the semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington would still be called the Rose Bowl. The name is part of licensing agreement and is co-owned by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and the City of Pasadena.
If not, it would be the first time in more than 100 years no Rose Bowl game was played after a college football season. The first Rose Bowl was played Jan. 1, 1902.
The last time the Rose Bowl game was played outside Pasadena, California, was 1942. The game between Oregon State and Duke was played in Durham, North Carolina, because the West Coast was deemed unsafe after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
USC begs off bowl game
No. 13 Southern California became the sixth Pac-12 team to opt out of a bowl game Saturday, citing a recommendation from team doctors and discussions with players.
The Trojans (5-1), who lost 31-24 to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game Friday night, would have been at risk of falling under the conference’s minimum number of 53 available scholarship players because of positive tests for COVID-19 and injuries after playing their third game in 13 days.
Coach Clay Helton also cited a desire by players to see family and friends during the holidays after being sequestered during the season.
“I am incredibly inspired by our players and the sacrifices they made these past six months to play the game that they love,” Helton said. “They did everything we asked of them to abide by the challenging guidelines they had to follow to stay safe and well, whether it was daily testing or keeping distant from family and friends or training in less-than-ideal ways. It has not been easy, and it is hard for anyone outside the program to understand how immensely difficult these past few months have been for them.”
USC joins Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State in ruling out bowl bids, with the Huskies still dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that prevented them from facing the Trojans in the conference title game.
The Pac-12 is down to four bowl tie-ins, with the Holiday, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Redbox and Sun bowls canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, USC’s decision means the Pac-12 will not be able to fill those spots after deciding that its teams needed to be at least .500 to become bowl eligible, overruling NCAA guidelines that will allow teams to play in a bowl game regardless of their record this season.
The Ducks are likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl after earning the conference’s automatic berth in the New Year’s Six. Colorado also has a winning record and has expressed interest in playing in a bowl, while Arizona State could reach .500 by beating Oregon State on Saturday night.