There will surely be roses, but the 2021 Rose Bowl Game won’t be played at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day.
Instead, the “Granddaddy of Them All” will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home of the NFL’s Cowboys, on Jan. 1. The move was announced the same day it was reported that Rose Bowl organizers were denied a special exception by the state of California to allow fans into the stadium. The Tournament of Roses announced in early December that the game would be held without spectators.
“We know that the decision was not an easy one to make,” David Eads, Tournament of Roses CEO and executive director, said in a statement Saturday night. “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.”
In addition to being the nation’s oldest bowl game, the Rose Bowl was to be the venue for one of two national semifinals in the 2021 College Football Playoff, along with the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. COVID-19 restrictions in California have affected other athletic events and teams in the state; the 49ers have been forced to play home games in Arizona, and Stanford’s basketball teams are on the road for an extended period.
The discussion about fans at the Rose Bowl picked up in the past week as coaches of Playoff contenders — including Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly — expressed doubts about playing in the Rose Bowl if players’ families couldn’t be in attendance. Ohio State’s Ryan Day echoed those concerns after the Buckeyes beat Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game Saturday.
“Why would we play if you can’t have families at the game?” Kelly said Friday. “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?”
Swinney pointed out that each family receives a $2,500 stipend to attend CFP games.
“Whether we’re in (the game) or whoever is in it, I don’t care, it makes no sense to me to put a bunch of kids on a plane and fly them all the way to California to play in an empty stadium,” Swinney said. “That makes zero sense when you have plenty of stadiums where you can have fans, and most importantly, you can have families.”
The Rose Bowl was originally held in Tournament Park in Pasadena prior to the construction of the Rose Bowl Stadium. It has been played outside Pasadena just once before: in 1942, when it was played in Durham, N.C., over concerns about attacks on the West Coast during World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.