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College Football Playoff semifinal moved from Rose Bowl to AT&T Stadium in Texas

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The College Football Playoff semifinal game scheduled for January 1 is being moved from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses announced Saturday night. The decision was made due to rising COVID-19 cases in Southern California, according to College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock.

"We are very grateful to Rose Bowl officials and the City of Pasadena," Hancock said in a statement. "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."

Tournament of Roses CEO and executive director David Eads said, "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."

Over the past week, the seven-day average positivity rate in Texas has hovered around 20% with a slight downward trend, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. In California, the positivity rate is closer to 12%, but with a slight upward trend over the same time period.

Due to California's COVID restrictions, fans would not have been allowed to attend the game had it been played in Pasadena. This included the players' parents and family members of the coaching staffs. The Rose Bowl asked the state to grant an exception for the annual game, but the request was denied twice. Several coaches from teams vying for the four playoff spots voiced displeasure with the decision before the game had officially been moved.

"We are pleased that parents and loved ones will now be able to see their students play in the game," Hancock said after the move was announced.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during a Friday virtual press conference threatened not to play in a playoff game if parents were not allowed to attend. The College Football Playoff selection committee announced Sunday that Notre Dame would be playing in the game despite a loss on Saturday, facing off against Alabama.

"Why can't it be the Rose Bowl in Las Vegas or can it be the Rose Bowl in another town?" Kelly asked on Friday. The Tournament of Roses noted when the move was announced that it is not clear if the game will still be called the Rose Bowl this year, as that name is co-owned by the organization and the city of Pasadena. 

If the name is changed, it would mark the first time in over a century that the Rose Bowl would not be played. If the game keeps the Rose Bowl name, it would be the first time since 1942 it would be played outside of Pasadena. The game was moved to North Carolina that year over safety concerns following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

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