Make-Up Dates for College Football Playoffs Announced Wednesday Sparking Concern of COVID-19 Outbreaks

The College Football Playoff (CFP) committee announced some January make-up dates for both its semifinal games and the national championship Wednesday.

Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick Saban leads the Alabama Crimson Tide onto the field prior to the game against the Missouri Tigers on Sept. 26. One month later Saban missed a home game vs. Auburn after being infected with the COVID-19 virus. Alabama is among four College Football Playoff schools who are set to play New Year’s Day barring any unforeseen outbreaks. (Image: Getty)

The announcement came with the notation that all programs are reporting to have enough healthy scholarship athletes to play. Still, there’s a contingency plan just in case—raising questions on social media which is expressing disappointment in the upcoming slate as programs in the New Year’s Six like Georgia and Florida have already been decimated by the virus and players opting out.

The NCAA, college football’s governing body, does not require individual programs to provide regular infection-rate updates, nor did they impose any specific protocols or testing regulation before or during the season.

But speculation is justified. After all, this is the same committee that announced one day it had no plans to relocate The Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, despite pressure from Notre Dame and Clemson coaches, and the next day moved the game to Dallas.

Semi-Final Would Push Back 10 Days, All Sites to Remain the Same

The CFP announced that Jan. 11 would be an alternative date for The Rose Bowl Game in Arlington, and Jan. 12 would be the make-up for the Sugar Bowl.

If one pairing can go New Year’s Day and the other cannot, only the affected game would be pushed back. All locations would stay the same even in the case of a reschedule, CFP officials said.

Right now, on New Year’s Day, No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Notre Dame will play 4 p.m. ET Friday in The Rose Bowl Game in Arlington, followed by No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State at 8 p.m. ET in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Alabama is 19.5-point favorites. Clemson is a 7.5-point favorite.

Should either or both of the postponements happen, the College Football Playoff National Championship will occur on Jan. 18, one week after its current kickoff, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“Everyone is planning to play the games as scheduled,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday in the announcement. “The teams, schools’ staffs, and bowl staffs have been working hard to provide an opportunity for the players. COVID procedures are in place at hotels and stadiums. We have prepared thoroughly, and we are ready.”

With the Exception of Notre Dame All Programs Have Experienced Major COVID-19 Issues this Season

Three of the four eligible programs have had COVID-19 issues this season. Ohio State played the fewest number of games (6) this year than any other CFP team. Multiple outbreaks, including head coach Ryan Day’s infection in late-November, plagued the program all season.

Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 in late November and prompted him to sit out for ten days, missing a home game vs. Auburn. The Crimson Tide has had several spikes in the program this season, the last of which came in late-November and early December.

Clemson’s outbreaks have rolled through the team since June. Most notably, they lost the services of projected NFL No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence plus a handful of other starters in late-October. They didn’t get the program back on line fully until the ACC championship game vs. Notre Dame. On Wednesday, Clemson announced offensive coordinator Tony Elliott will miss the team’s semifinal game Friday because of COVID-19 protocols. Elliott, the Tigers’ head playcaller for the last six seasons, will not make the trip to New Orleans. School officials did not offer specifics beyond this.

Notre Dame was the only program to survive the season mostly unscathed, reporting only one positive test over the last six weeks.

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