The College Football Playoff semifinal scheduled to be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on New Year's Day is relocating to the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. The move was prompted by California's ban on spectators at sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Saturday night that conference commissioners who make up the playoff's 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 midafternoon window on New Year's Day," Hancock said in a released 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 1/2 hours before the playoff field was scheduled to be set Sunday, is just the latest twist during a season played through myriad COVID-19 disruptions.
The Rose Bowl Game, known as "The Granddaddy of Them All" when it comes to college football's postseason, 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 members 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 within the past week. The restrictions have been in place since March, and UCLA has played its home football games at the stadium 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 Sugar Bowl is serving as the other playoff semifinal this season. It will be held, as usual, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, with current plans to allow 3,000 fans at the stadium the night of Jan. 1. The championship game is scheduled for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, which hosted the Super Bowl this past February.
Hancock said it had not yet been determined if the semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, would still be called the Rose Bowl. The name is part of a 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 that no Rose Bowl Game was played after a college football season. The first Rose Bowl was played on Jan. 1, 1902.
The last time the 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 attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.