IRVING, Texas — The College Football Playoff (CFP) management committee announced Wednesday afternoon a series of new actions it will take due to the nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant.
The University of Cincinnati (13-0) is scheduled to play Alabama (12-1) in the College Football Playoff semifinal at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
If UC or Alabama is unavailable to play, the unavailable team will forfeit and its opponent would advance to the national championship game, according to the CFP release.
"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," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. "These policies will better protect our students and staffs while providing clarity in the event worst-case scenarios result."
If both teams are unavailable to play in either the Cotton or Orange Bowl (Michigan versus Georgia), then the semifinal would be declared a "no contest" and the team winning the other semifinal game would be declared the CFP National Champion.
If the team's unavailability is determined after the semifinals, the national championship game in Indianapolis may be rescheduled to no later than Friday, Jan. 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.
The committee also said Wednesday teams have the option to arrive at the bowl site not later than two days before the game instead of the customary five days prior to the game.
Other actions announced Wednesday include:
- Attendance at events at the game sites will be optional for student-athletes, institutions' staff members, bands and spirit squads.
- Media access to coaches, staff and student-athletes will be virtual.
- Each institution will use the testing arrangement that it used during the regular season. The institution will arrange for testing at the game site. Each conference has agreed to accept each other conference's testing protocol.
- 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.
University of Cincinnati football sports information director Zach Stipe said Wednesday night the Bearcats are scheduled to arrive in their team hotel in Texas Dec. 26.
"The University of Cincinnati Athletic Department continues to follow the recommendations and guidance set by our medical staff as well as the policies set forth by the CDC, local health department and the University of Cincinnati campus for COVID-19 prevention," Stipe wrote in an email. "We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and will adjust our protocols as needed."
"More than 99% of UC football players and staff are vaccinated and every single player and staff member available for the game is vaccinated."
The College Football Playoff matches the No. 1 ranked team vs. No. 4, and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in semifinal games for a shot at the National Championship.
The College Football Playoff National Championship is scheduled for Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.