If a team is unavailable to play in College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve because of COVID-19 issues, the game will be forfeited and the available team will advance to the championship.
With COVID-19 cases spiking across the country due to the omicron variant, the CFP announced Wednesday contingency plans for the semifinals and national championship game, which is scheduled for Jan. 10 in Indianapolis but could be delayed as much as four days.
No. 1 Alabama is scheduled to face No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl in one Dec. 31 semifinal and No. 2 Michigan is set to play No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl in the nightcap of the CFP doubleheader.
As college basketball faced a wave of cancellations and postponements due to the omicron surge over the last week, it seemed only a matter of time before it impacted bowl season.
“As we prepare for the Playoff, it’s wise and necessary to put into place additional precautions to protect those who will play and coach the games,” College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “These policies will better protect our students and staffs while providing clarity in the event worst-case scenarios result.”
The contingency plans were agreed to by the CFP management committee, comprised of the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director.
The CFP said each school will be responsible for determining whether it has a sufficient number of available players.
While there will be no rescheduling of either semifinal, the championship game could be delayed until as late as Jan. 14.
If a team cannot play in the title game, the available team will be declared national champion. If neither team has enough available players by Jan. 14, the championship will be considered vacated.
For the semifinals, if both teams scheduled to play each other are unavailable, that game shall be declared a no contest and the winner of the the other semifinal will be declared national champion.
If three semifinal teams are unavailable to play on Dec. 31, the team that is able to play will be declared national champion.
On the one hand, that’s the sober and safe and responsible thing to do. Much better to cancel the game than to put the athletes at risk, which includes a greater risk of injury if their team is especially short-handed. On the other hand, it’s completely bonkers, and I have a hard time imagining that the people with zillions of dollars at stake – the TV networks, the NCAA itself, the schools and conferences involved – will just let any of these games be canceled, whatever the consequences for playing them may be. As the story notes, the teams are working to get their players boosted, and are trying to keep them sufficiently isolated from outside contact, but all it takes is one guy getting sick to put it all at risk. ESPN and CBS Sports have more.
And just a reminder that this is a thing that could happen.
Texas A&M became the first college football team to be sidelined by COVID-19 and the recent omicron surge.
The Aggies will not play in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve because of an outbreak that left the team without enough players, the school announced on Wednesday.
Texas A&M’s decision to withdraw from the game against Wake Forest comes amid a coronavirus surge across the nation and is the first impact on the college bowl season.
“It is unfortunate, but we just don’t have enough scholarship players available to field a team,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.
I applaud Texas A&M for making the right choice, which I’m sure was not easy for them to make. But let’s not kid ourselves, the stakes are lower here than they would be in the CFP. Remember the “oh, shit” moment we all had when the NBA paused its season following Rudy Gobert’s positive test, and the NCAA tournament was canceled, and MLB spring training got postponed? That’s what we’re on the edge of here. Hope for the best, for everyone involved.