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College Football Playoff semifinal at Rose Bowl moves to Texas

An aerial view of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena during the 2017 game between USC and Penn State.
(Tournament of Roses / Getty Images)

The College Football Playoff semifinal that was to be played Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl is headed to AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Tournament of Roses, which was hoping to keep the game in Pasadena, announced the decision Saturday night in a news release, saying it was “extremely disappointed” it would not be playing host to the iconic New Year’s Day game.

The decision, apparently made in concert with the CFP management committee, hinged on playing a game in a venue that would allow at least family and friends of the participants to be in attendance. Representatives of the Rose Bowl game were rebuffed in their two appeals to state health officials to allow 400-500 spectators in a 95,000-seat stadium that includes more than 50 suites.

“We know that the decision was not an easy one to make,” said David Eads, CEO and executive director of the Tournament of Roses. “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.”

It has yet to be determined if the relocated game will be called the CFP Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One, because the City of Pasadena first would need to sign off on another entity using the “Rose Bowl” name.

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In addition to the issue of no spectators at the game, the Tournament of Roses pointed to the “significant strain on medical resources” throughout Los Angeles County, and that “the well-being of the student-athlete needs to come first and that continues to be our top priority.”

Said CFP executive director Bill Hancock: “We are grateful to Rose Bowl officials and the City of Pasadena. They have worked hard to listen to the concerns of the CFP, the teams that might have played there, and their state and government officials.”

The game will be a tight turnaround for AT&T Stadium, which is set to host the Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 30.

Tournament of Roses officials made a concerted effort for family and friends to attend the game, but received a two-page letter from the state Thursday night denying the latest appeal.

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With L.A. County the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, common sense and science dictated that the Rose Bowl not host a College Football Playoff semifinal.

“We understand the honor and tradition that takes place in Pasadena in participating in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day,” wrote Erica Pan, acting state health officer at the California Department of Health. “However, there are no boundaries to this virus.”

Pan called it a “dynamic virus and situation,” and wrote, “This is why we have chosen a slow and stringent science-based approach to determining when activities should open.”

Possible participants in the game are Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Texas A&M. The matchup announcement will be made Sunday. The Sugar Bowl in New Orleans will host the other semifinal.

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A lingering question is whether the Rose Bowl will play host to a CFP semifinal next year or have to wait for its turn in the traditional three-year rotation.

The Rose Bowl was last played outside Pasadena in 1942, when Oregon State beat Duke 20-16 in front of 56,000 fans in Durham, N.C.

The game was moved because of fears — just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — of an another attack on the West Coast. The federal government prohibited large gatherings out west for the duration of the war.

AT&T Stadium has hosted nearly 170,000 fans for six Cowboys home games this season — including 30,000 on Thanksgiving Day.

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