Though committee members hinted otherwise this week, the College Football Playoff semifinal is scheduled to kick off at the Rose Bowl on Jan 1, 2021.

The Rose Bowl Game
The College Football Playoff Committee is bristling at the prospect of a crowd-less Rose Bowl. Should California Gov. Gavin Newsom not make an exception for the Jan. 1 game, which will serve as the football playoff’s semi-final round, the committee may shop elsewhere for a venue. (Image: Getty)

That said, college football’s premier postseason venue is likely to lose its spot if Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn’t make some policy exceptions for the game.

Newsom’s current stay-at-home order in effect throughout Southern California mandates that residents in the affected area are required to stay in their houses unless there’s an emergency, or to run essential errands.

Stay-at-Home Orders Preclude Fans from Attending Rose Bowl Game

The order triggers when ICU capacity in a region goes below 15%. When this happens, that region is automatically placed on lockdown.

Even if the area’s numbers improve, the state doesn’t remove the order for a minimum of three weeks. So, if Southern California’s orders went away today, that minimum threshold brings relaxed restrictions well past the Rose Bowl Game kickoff for the CFP.

Events, including professional and college football, are allowed even with restrictions, so long as there are no people in attendance. Before starting the shortened Pac-12 season at the beginning of November, both UCLA and USC sought an exemption that would have allowed family members to attend home games. Their request was denied.

CFP Committed* (*Not) to Keeping Game in Southern California

The CFP’s management committee said the game is still scheduled to kick off at the Rose Bowl as planned, but with a big asterisk.

“Given the realities of 2020, we always reserve the right to make decisions as late as possible,” CFP Executive director Bill Hancock told reporters at a press conference over video Tuesday evening. “What happens if the state of California shuts down entirely and doesn’t allow any games? We are keeping our eye on the situation, but are planning to play the semifinal at the Rose Bowl.”

Because couples who stay together never say things like, “What if we were to get divorced? But for now, we’re still married,” some Southern California sports pundits believe it’s a safe bet that the CFP has already moved on from the Rose Bowl. According to multiple reports, committee members have already discussed the semifinal move to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The only sticking point might be the Rose Bowl’s current TV contract with ESPN. In a separate deal from the network’s agreement for the rest of the CFP, the $80 million per year for the game would be in question should the cancellation happen.

CFP Denies it Wants Game Moved, Discusses Where Game Could Go

Greg Sankey, the SEC Commissioner and a member of the CFP management committee, bristled at the suggestion that his conference is driving to move the game further east and to a state with more relaxed COVID-19 protocols.

“The SEC is not part of an initiative to relocate the CFP Semifinal Game from the Rose Bowl to another location,” Sankey said in a statement Monday. “Any implication that the SEC is part of a proactive charge of lobbying effort to change the location of any CFP location is inaccurate.”

A second CFP meeting this week is scheduled for Thursday. While keeping the Rose Bowl in play isn’t currently on the agenda, the committee’s executive director made it clear that he intends to take action if he doesn’t see movement from the governor.

“Given the vast space inside the Rose Bowl stadium, we are confident that if families were able to attend, they could do so in a safe and socially distant manner,” CFP executive director Hancock said. “For many families, this will be the last chance they have to see their sons play college football. We understand that under California’s COVID-19 protocols, fans, in general, will not be able to attend. We hope the small number of families who want to attend will not be prohibited from doing so.”

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