Oct 24, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly (right) leads the team onto the field before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. Notre Dame won 45-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly: Notre Dame might ditch CFP if parents not allowed

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

Nov 22, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team cornerback Ronald Darby (23) celebrates with Washington Football Team cornerback Jimmy Moreland (20) after recovering a fumble in the end zone against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Football Team: No fans the rest of season

The Washington Football Team will continue their pursuit of the NFC East title without fans at their remaining two home games this season.

“After careful consideration and close coordination with Prince George’s County health officials, the Washington Football Team has made the difficult decision to play the remainder of our 2020 games without fans in attendance,” the team said in a statement on Friday.

“We will miss the unbridled passion of our fanbase at FedExField as we take on the Seattle Seahawks on December 20th and the Carolina Panthers on December 27th, but we must remain diligent in protecting our staff, players, fans, and the community as the region continues its fight against COVID-19.”

Washington (5-7) upset the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night to remain in a tie with the New York Giants for first place in the decision. They are scheduled to play the San Francisco 49ers (5-7) on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

–Field Level Media

Rose, Fiesta bowls to be played without fans

The Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl will be played without fans in January due to COVID-19 restrictions, both bowl committees announced Thursday.

While the Fiesta Bowl will allow families of players to attend the Jan. 2 game at Glendale, Ariz., the state, city and county nixed the Tournament of Roses’ request for the same in Pasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl is one of the College Football Playoff’s semifinal games this go-round.

Los Angeles County is under a stay-at-home order due to the pandemic through mid-December.

“While we are disappointed that the Rose Bowl Game will not be played in front of spectators, we are pleased that we are still able to hold the game this year, continuing the 100-year plus tradition of The Granddaddy of Them All,” said David Eads, executive director and CEO of the Tournament of Roses. “We continue to work closely with health department officials and the Rose Bowl Stadium to provide the safest possible environment for our game participants.”

Arizona has experienced an uptick in cases of COVID-19, peaking at more than 5,700 late last month.

“While we are disappointed that the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will not have fans in the stadium to enjoy Bowl Season this year, we respect the decisions made by the local authorities,” said Mike Nealy, the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl Organization. “Our staff was incredibly diligent to put health and safety measures in place that earned the endorsement from the Governor’s Office for policies that aligned with recommendations for reducing COVID-19 transmission risk. Ultimately, we all need to do our part to ensure the health and safety of our community to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The Sugar Bowl — the other CFP semifinal — as well as the Orange Bowl and CFP title game are still on track to host a limited amount of fans.

Ten bowl games thus far have been canceled due to the pandemic: Bahamas, Celebration, Fenway, Hawaii, Holiday, Las Vegas, Motor City, Pinstripe, Redbox and Sun.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Real and cardboard cutout fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers watch the game against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

COVID forces Steelers to ban fans for December games

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Tuesday that attendance at Heinz Field for the team’s two home games in December will be limited to family and friends of players and members of the organization due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Steelers put out a statement that new restrictions on gatherings in the state of Pennsylvania have forced the team to ban fans.

“Governor Wolf’s Office and State Health Director Dr. Levine issued new orders and advisories which will affect our games in December, starting with the game against Washington on December 6. That order will now limit Heinz Field to no more than 2,500 people in the building, including players, coaches, stadium staff, etc.,” the team said in a statement.

“Consequently, we will have to restrict fans in the seating bowl to family and friends of players and the organization.”

The Steelers Thursday night Thanksgiving game against the rival Baltimore Ravens is not impacted by the new restrictions, and about 5,500 fans are expected to attend the game at Heinz Field.

Fans at Thursday’s game will be required to adhere to the stadium’s protocols, including requirements for wearing a mask and social distancing.

While no fans will be allowed at Heinz Field in December, it is unknown if fans will be allowed into the stadium should the Steelers, who are currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC, host any games in the postseason.

— Field Level Media

Aug 2, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; A view of the Ravens logo on a game helmet prior to the game of the Chicago Bears against the Baltimore Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens shut out fans citing rising COVID numbers

The Baltimore Ravens announced Monday that fans won’t be permitted at M&T Bank Stadium for the Ravens’ home game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Citing increases in cases and hospitalizations in the state of Maryland, the team said no fans — including team family members — will be permitted.

“In giving the matter careful consideration, and with the rise of Maryland’s COVID-19 infection rate and increased hospitalizations, the Ravens believe this decision is the correct one in helping protect the well-being and safety of our community,” the team announced in a statement.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s health department reported at least 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for a sixth straight day on Monday. The number of people hospitalized for the illness, and the state’s seven-day average case rate per 100,000, has also nearly doubled in the last two weeks.

The Ravens opened the season on Sept. 13 without fans, but Maryland governor Larry Hogan loosened state attendance restrictions later in September and again in October.

Baltimore hosted just one game with general admittance for fans, a 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 1. A total of 4,345 was listed as the official attendance number for that game at the venue, which has an official capcity of 71,000.

Baltimore (6-3) will play at Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving on Nov. 26 after hosting the Titans on Sunday. The Ravens are schedule to host the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 3.

–Field Level Media

Aug 22, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Gillette Stadium logo during the first half of the game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots announce no fans allowed for rest of season

The New England Patriots announced Monday that no fans will be allowed to attend home games for the rest of this season.

The announcement comes days after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker instituted new interventions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state. Massachusetts is seeing a surge of cases with 11,692 new cases in the past week, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

The fan ban includes the New England Revolution of MLS, who also play at Gillette Stadium.

“Throughout the last several months, Gillette Stadium officials and the Kraft Sports + Entertainment organization have worked diligently to develop a plan to safely host fans at a reduced capacity,” officials said in a statement. “We have done so in collaboration with a team of infectious disease experts and the Massachusetts Reopening Advisory Board and feel confident in our plan, which complies with guidelines issued by the CDC, the National Football League and Major League Soccer.

“We have recently been informed that the Governor’s Executive Order prohibiting large capacity venues from opening to the public will remain in force for the remainder of the 2020 football and soccer seasons.

“As we turn our focus to 2021, we will continue to work closely with the advisory board to safely reopen our building. We look forward to welcoming Patriots and Revolution fans back home to Gillette Stadium upon being granted approval next year.”

The Patriots (2-5) next play at home in Week 10 against the Baltimore Ravens (6-2). The Patriots play the New York Jets on Monday night in East Rutherford N.J.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Empty club level seats are seen during the first half of a game between the Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington to allow 3,000 fans for Giants game

The Washington Football Team will allow about 3,000 fans to attend the Nov. 8 game at FedEx Field against the New York Giants.

“Welcome back! It’s a small step back towards normalcy in this crazy time,” tweeted Julie Donaldson, the team’s senior vice president of media and content.

The team plays in Landover, Md., and state Gov. Larry Hogan announced last week that both the Redskins and Baltimore Ravens could open their stadiums to fans as long as they occupied fewer than 10 percent of the seats amid the coronavirus pandemic.

FedEx Field seats about 80,000.

The team did a trial run with 200 friends and family members on hand Oct. 11 for the game against the Los Angeles Rams.

“We take our responsibility to protect our staff, players, fans, and the community seriously,” said Jason Wright, team president. “Since the beginning of the season, we worked in close coordination with Prince George’s County health officials to monitor and assess the possibility of welcoming fans.”

Tickets will be sold to season-ticket holders, based on tenure. All fans must wear face coverings.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader in the stands during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles welcoming fans back to stadium vs. Ravens

The Philadelphia Eagles got the OK to welcome fans back to Lincoln Financial Field for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Capacity is set for 7,500 total, meaning roughly 5,000 to 6,000 fans will be allowed in to watch the game, according to varying reports. Tickets go on sale Wednesday for season ticketholders who opted in for the games against the Ravens and New York Giants (Thursday, Oct. 22).

“We have been working very closely with state and local officials, public health experts, and the National Football League on a number of scenarios to safely bring Eagles fans back to Lincoln Financial Field,” team president Don Smolenski said. “We will all continue to stay in close communication and will be prepared to adjust and adapt as needed.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf eased restrictions last week, allowing for a limited capacity in Pittsburgh when the Eagles visited the Steelers. The City of Philadelphia amended guidelines for gatherings Monday, allowing the Eagles to follow suit.

The Eagles played their first two home games without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Eagles are 1-3-1 while the Ravens are 4-1.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;  General view of the field after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs plan to admit more fans after governor’s order

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open Raymond James Stadium to fans next weekend, now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has lifted restrictions on businesses throughout Florida.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order that removed all rules that impacted businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said.

So the Buccaneers, who hadn’t planned on a return of fans until Week 6, will allow a limited number of spectators when they play the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 4.

While the team did not specify a target number, the Tampa Bay Times said attendance will be capped at 10,000. Beginning with the Oct. 18 game against the Green Bay Packers, Raymond James Stadium will be limited to 25 percent capacity, or 16,250, the Times said.

“We have been working tirelessly with local and state authorities, as well as medical experts, to ensure a safe environment at Raymond James Stadium,” Buccaneers COO Brian Ford said. “We are ready and excited to welcome our fans back.”

Only longtime season-ticket holders will have a chance to see quarterback Tom Brady lead the offense, however.

For the Chargers game, season seat holders who have held their tickets since 1998 or earlier will be given the first chance to but tickets. For the remaining home schedule, the Bucs will hold a “priority presale” for season pass members who kept their 2020 payments as credit toward 2021 games having the chance to buy limited tickets for up to two games.

As of Saturday, Florida’s other teams – the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins – had not announced any modifications to their attendance plans.

Florida is the third in the United States in total cases of COVID-19 — trailing California and Texas — at almost 700,000 and reported 2,847 new cases in the past day, Johns Hopkins University reported.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; The Atlanta Falcons logo is shown in an end zone before the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons to allow limited number of fans on Oct. 11

The Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday that they will allow a limited number of fans into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Oct. 11 for their game against the Carolina Panthers.

The team decided last month to play September home games without fans, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But with a decline of cases in Georgia, the team is moving forward with limited capacity for the Oct. 11 game, as well as for home matches involving the Atlanta United MLS team.

“We are thrilled to invite fans of both the Falcons and Atlanta United back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” says Steve Cannon, CEO, AMB Sports and Entertainment.

“Having fans watch from alternative locations was a difficult, but important decision. It’s been challenging for both teams to play without fans, but their well-being as well as the safety of our associates and fans was paramount.”

The team is allowing 500 friends, family and associates for the Falcons’ home game this Sunday against the Chicago Bears as a dry run on protocols and operations.

–Field Level Media