If any of the four College Football Playoff teams is unable to play on Dec. 31 due to a COVID-19 outbreak, they will be forced to forfeit the semifinal and their opponent will advance to the national championship, according to a new set of policies released Wednesday.
With the omicron variant causing a significant spike in coronavirus cases and disrupting schedules in every sport, the CFP’s updated guidelines will allow teams to travel to their semifinal site on Dec. 29, just two days before the game, instead of Dec. 26.
But the most significant revelation from the updated protocols is that there will be no opportunity for the semifinals to be rescheduled if teams are dealing with outbreaks. If both teams are unable to play a semifinal, the game will be declared no contest and the winner of the other semifinal will be declared the national champion. If three teams are unable to play, the lone semifinalist remaining would be the national champion.
According to the CFP, there would potentially be an opportunity to reschedule the national championship game but no later than Jan. 14 — four days after the original date. If the game can’t be played in that window, the team having the COVID-19 outbreak would have to forfeit. If both teams are unable to play, it would be declared a no contest without a national champion being crowned.
“We certainly wish we were not in this position,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “But the only responsible thing is to take whatever actions we can reasonably take to better protect those who play and coach the game.”
Two of the CFP teams are already dealing with COVID-19 issues. Defending champion Alabama announced that offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Doug Marrone tested positive and are isolating but should return in time for its semifinal against Cincinnati. At Georgia, which is preparing to play Michigan in the other semifinal, backup quarterback JT Daniels tested positive according to the Athens Banner-Herald.
Outside the CFP, Texas A&M announced it will not have enough players to participate in the Gator Bowl against Wake Forest because of an outbreak within its locker room.
For the semifinals and national championship game, schools will be able to maintain the testing and contact tracing protocols that they’ve been operating under all season. But they must certify that anyone with access to the playing field has either tested negative within 72 hours of kickoff or has been fully vaccinated.
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