A win Saturday in the ACC championship game would seal a College Football Playoff semifinal berth for No. 2 Notre Dame, but Irish coach Brian Kelly said he doesn’t know whether his team would play if players’ families can’t be in the stands.
“I’m not sure we’ll play in the playoffs if the parents can’t be there,” Kelly told reporters Friday. “Why would be we play if you can’t have families at the game? If you can’t have families at bowl games, why would you go to a game where your families can’t be part of it? What’s the sense of playing a game in an area of the country where nobody can be part of it?”
The Irish (10-0) will meet No. 3 Clemson (9-1) in the ACC title game on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., where 5,240 fans will be allowed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Notre Dame, an independent, joined the ACC on a temporary basis this season to be able to play a full slate of games.
Even with a loss to Clemson, Notre Dame wouldn’t be out of contention for a CFP semifinal berth.
One of the semifinals is scheduled to be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. With Los Angeles County experiencing a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases, a ban on fans at sporting events remains in effect.
The county had 14,270 new cases on Thursday, and the county Department of Health Services reported only 18 open beds in intensive care units.
The second semifinal is set for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Both games are scheduled for Jan. 1.
Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoffs, said earlier this week he hoped Los Angeles County would relax its restrictions on fans for the day.
“At this moment, the College Football Playoff looks forward to playing one of the two semifinal playoff games at the Rose Bowl, as scheduled,” Hancock said in a statement. “As we move forward with our planning, we continue to hope that the Rose Bowl’s appeal to government officials to allow the families of student-athletes to attend will be permitted, just as student-athlete families will be welcomed at the Sugar Bowl, the other New Year’s Six games and the championship game in Miami.”
Kelly said his players shouldn’t be deprived of having their families in attendance.
“Maybe they [CFP] need to spend a little less time on who the top four teams are and figure out how to get parents into these games because it is an absolute shame and a sham if parents can’t be watching their kids play,” Kelly said. “My kids have been on campus since June. They haven’t seen their families very much at all. They’ve had to fight through COVID, some of them have had COVID. They can’t be around their families for Christmas, and you’re going to tell me we’re going to have a playoff and maybe one site can have families and the other can’t? Please.
“Somebody’s got to wake up in that room and figure this out or you might as well call this the professional league. I am so sick and tired of this playoff committee talking about having sites where you can’t have parents at and their families. It’s ridiculous.”
Earlier this fall, athletic directors Martin Jarmond of UCLA and Mike Bohn of USC asked county and state health officials to allow family members of their football teams to attend games and were denied.
UCLA plays its home games at the Rose Bowl.
The Los Angeles Rams and Chargers also have played their home games at the new SoFi Stadium in nearby Inglewood without any fans in attendance.
An appearance in one of the New Year’s Six bowls and College Football Playoff games is a financial windfall for schools and conferences. In 2018-19, the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Peach and Cotton bowls, plus the national championship game, paid a combined $549 million to leagues and participants, USA Today reported.
–Field Level Media