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College Football Playoff announces COVID plan, including possible team forfeitures

The changes are meant to protect student-athletes' health and safety from coronavirus.

INDIANAPOLIS — The College Football Playoff (CFP) Management Committee announced a series of steps to protect student-athletes' health and safety from coronavirus through the championship game in Indianapolis. The changes include possibly delaying a game and team forfeitures.

“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,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP. “These policies will better protect our students and staffs while providing clarity in the event worst-case scenarios result.”

The following will be the protocols if any team is not able to compete due to too many players being out because of COVID:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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The changes were based on a recommendation from the management committee. Additional policies in place for teams and athletes include:

  • 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.

“We certainly wish we were not in this position,” Hancock said. “But the only responsible thing is to take whatever actions we can reasonably take to better protect those who play and coach the game.”

The 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship will take place Monday, Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. ET in Indianapolis. The game will air live on ESPN.

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