The 2021 Rose Bowl Game has been relocated from Pasadena to Texas, leaving Southern California without its signature New Year’s Day sporting event for the first time since 1942.
Officials announced Saturday that the game — a College Football Playoff semifinal — will played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Jan. 1.
The decision was based on “the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Southern California along with the inability to host player and coach guests at any game in California,” according to a statement from the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.
“We know that the decision was not an easy one to make,” said David Eads, Tournament of Roses CEO and executive director. “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.”
The Tournament of Roses received word late last week that the state of California would not make a special exception for player guests at the game. Since March, all sporting events played in California have been unable to host spectators and participant families.
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses made its first appeal for a special exception for the Rose Bowl in November and made a second request to the state in December. Both requests were denied.
“We are very 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,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff.
The game between Alabama, first in the final College Football Playoff rankings released Sunday, and fourth-ranked Notre Dame will be known as the Rose Bowl presented by Capital One.
The name Rose Bowl is co-owned by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and city of Pasadena.
Since the 2014 college football season, the Rose Bowl has been part of the College Football Playoff system, serving as a semifinal game every three years.
The Alabama-Notre Dame semifinal was placed in Arlington because 16,000 fans will be allowed to attend the game and 3,000 at the other semifinal, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Selection Committee chairman Gary Barta told ESPN.
The College Football Playoff protocols include not disadvantaging the top-ranked team, so the Crimson Tide are playing in the Rose Bowl and not the Sugar Bowl.
The current seven-day COVID-19 testing positivity rate in Tarrant County (home of AT&T Stadium) is 17%, according to that county’s website. Los Angeles County’s current rate is 14.7%.
The Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game. The first game was played in January 1902, and the annual tradition began in 1916. Since 1923 the game has been played at or near the beginning of every year at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, with the exception of 1942, when it was moved to Durham, North Carolina for security reasons during World War II.
Meanwhile, USC announced Saturday that it will decline to participate in a bowl game this postseason. The Trojans lost to Oregon, 31-24, Friday night in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, dropping their record at 5-1.
The decision was made following a recommendation from the USC medical team and discussions with the Trojan football leadership council. The football program has experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases among its players and staff recently, including positive cases this past week.
“I am incredibly inspired by our players and the sacrifices they made these past six months to play the game that they love,” Trojans coach Clay Helton said. “They did everything we asked of them to abide by the challenging guidelines they had to follow to stay safe and well, whether it was daily testing or keeping distant from family and friends or training in less-than-ideal ways.
“It has not been easy … We all share the desire to stay healthy and be with loved ones during the holidays and I fully support this collective decision.”