The College Football Playoff is less than two weeks away and COVID-19 is still a part of everyday life nearly two years after it was named a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March of 2020.
Well, in light of recent surges of the virus, including Texas A&M backing out of the Gator Bowl earlier today because of an outbreak within their program, The College Football Playoff Management Committee has announced a series of actions and precautions it will take to protect student-athletes who are participating in the playoff games and/or the Fiesta and Peach Bowls. One of the rules that jump off the page is that if three of the four teams are unable to play due to COVID-19 issues, the one team that could play would be deemed CFP National Champion by default. Could you imagine what that would look like?
Here are the procedures that will be used, directly from the College Football Playoff COVID-19 Post Season Policies:
The following are the policies for the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl if an institution determines that it is unable to compete in the game because an insufficient number of athletes are available to play because of COVID-19.
- Fiesta and Peach Bowls – The CFP, bowl game and ESPN shall attempt to identify an alternate date for the game within one week of the scheduled date; if no date can be identified, the game would be considered no contest.
- Playoff Semifinals (Cotton and Orange Bowls) if one team is unavailable to play – The unavailable team shall forfeit the game and its opponent would advance to the national championship game.
- Playoff Semifinals (Cotton and Orange Bowls) if both teams are unavailable to play in one semifinal – The semifinal game would be declared “no contest” and the team winning the other semifinal game would be declared the CFP National Champion.
- Playoff Semifinals (Cotton and Orange Bowls) if three teams are unavailable to play – The semifinal game in which two teams are unable to play would be declared “no contest.” In the other semifinal game, the team unable to play shall forfeit the game and its opponent would be declared CFP National Champion.
- CFP National Championship – If the team’s unavailability is determined after the Playoff Semifinals have been conducted, the national championship game in Indianapolis may be rescheduled to no later than Friday, January 14. If one team is able to play and the other is not and the game cannot be rescheduled or is rescheduled and cannot be played, then the team unable to play shall forfeit the game and the other team shall be declared CFP National Champion. If both teams are unable to play on either an original or rescheduled date, then the game shall be declared “no contest” and the CFP National Championship shall be vacated for this season.
Following are other policies that shall be in place for this year’s games:
- Teams’ travel to bowl sites – Teams have the option to arrive at the bowl site not later than two days before the game, rather than the customary five days before the game. (For example, not later than Wednesday before a Friday game.)
- Bowl events – Attendance at events at the game sites will be optional for student-athletes, institutions’ staff members, bands and spirit squads.
- News conferences – Media access to coaches, staff and student-athletes will be virtual.
- Access to the playing field – Non-essential personnel will not have access to the field and sidelines pre- and post-game. (For clarity, this includes, but is not limited to, institutions’ friends and family and bowls’ “special guests” and sponsors.)
- Testing Arrangement – Each institution will use the testing arrangement that it used during the regular season. The institution will arrange for testing at the game site.
- Acceptance of Opponent’s Protocol – Each conference has agreed to accept each other conference’s testing protocol.
- Certification – The director of athletics and the institution’s chief medical officer must certify that each person with access to the playing field on game day has tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the kickoff or has been fully vaccinated.
- Health and Safety – To provide the best chance of health and safety, the participating institutions are encouraged to ensure that student-athletes and staff take prudent measures and follow medical recommendations to help prevent the contraction or transmission of COVID before, during and after they travel to the game sites.
Hopefully, the games can be played with all players available and we can get through this bowl season without more COVID-19 controversy. But, if things get out of hand the CFP management committee has put rules in place to protect the student-athletes and their universities. I, for one, just don’t want to see anyone forfeit a playoff game and ruin the validity of a championship after a wild and eventful 2021 college football season.