Utah and Ohio State pass on some bowl perks to avoid COVID ahead of the Rose Bowl

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, right, and wide receiver Britain Covey (18) celebrate the team's win over USC on Oct. 9
Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, right, and wide receiver Britain Covey are following COVID-19 precautions and the loss of some bowl perks to help ensure they can play in the Rose Bowl.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The anticipation for the 2022 Rose Bowl game is finally settling in for Ohio State and Utah.

The teams were welcomed by crisp air this week in downtown Los Angeles and are preparing to face off in one of the most iconic bowl games Saturday afternoon in Pasadena.

That is, if it’s not canceled due to the rise of coronavirus cases in California amid the surge of the Omicron variant.


As Ohio State and Utah roll through game plans and practices, California averaged 11,914 new coronavirus cases per day last week, while Los Angeles County reported a 43% increase in hospitalizations over the course of the previous week, according to data compiled by The Times.

While the Rose Bowl is still scheduled to be played, several other college bowl games across the country have been canceled due to the rise in coronavirus cases. Most recently, UCLA couldn’t field enough players to compete in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego and Boston College withdrew from the Military Bowl in Annapolis after reporting more than 40 players were unable to play due to a mix of injuries and positive coronavirus tests.

“I have no information that suggests that our game is under threat or anything like that,” Ohio State secondary coach Matt Barnes said. “But I just see how hard our guys work and I know that they deserve a chance to go play in this game. Just looking at the climate around the country and seeing other games canceled, it certainly is concerning.”

Unlike California, neither Ohio or Utah have mask mandates, but the programs have implemented safety measures.

“Masks everywhere, distancing as much as possible,” Barnes said. “We’re just trying to be smart about what positions we put our players in. In the past, there’s been some more events with both teams in tighter quarters. You just got to be smart about how you do those things.”


Both teams wore masks while visiting Disneyland, but the annual trip to to Lawry’s The Prime Rib — where each Rose Bowl team has feasted on a steak dinner for decades — is among the casualties. The meals for both teams at the restaurant were canceled due to COVID concerns.

Only hours before UCLA’s kickoff in the Holiday Bowl on Tuesday, the Bruins pulled out of the game because of COVID-19 issues with the team.

Dec. 28, 2021

Utah coaches and trainers have limited contact the players have had with the public. As disappointing as it is to not greet fans or snap photos with them, senior wide receiver Britain Covey understands those rules ensured the health of the team and helped them reach their first Rose Bowl.

“Those are concerns that you don’t want to worry about because you don’t really have much control over it, other than wearing your mask,” Covey said. “It’s not fun seeing a lot of other bowl games canceled, but I know this bowl game means so much to so many people, so we’re doing everything in our power to [play] it.”

Despite the game cancellations across the country, coaches and players are focused on playing planning to play a game at the Rose Bowl come Saturday.

“[COVID-19] is not my concern right now. I’m concerned about having a good practice,” Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. “In this day and age and what’s going on in the world, it is, but I cannot let that be my focus.”