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College Football Playoff champion could be crowned by forfeit under new COVID-19 policies

Title game could be pushed back 5 days if necessary; Team unable to participate in semifinals would be made to forfeit
Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban celebrates with players after winning 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship
Posted at 3:36 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 15:51:55-05

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The College Football Playoff on Wednesday announced a series of sweeping new COVID-19 policies to protect players and coaches and preserve the format of the postseason amid the recent surge of the omicron variant.

Most notably, if one of the four teams selected to the College Football Playoff cannot participate in either semifinal game, that team would be forced to forfeit.

The changes, announced by the College Football Playoff Management Committee, also provide flexibility for the Jan. 10 national championship game in Indianapolis to be pushed back no later than Jan. 14.

"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," Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said in a statement. "These policies will better protect our students and staffs while providing clarity in the event worst-case scenarios result."

The announcement came on the same day that Texas A&M said it won't play in the Gator Bowl because of COVID-19 issues.

If one team is unavailable to play in either the Cotton Bowl or Orange Bowl, the unavailable team shall forfeit and its opponent would advance to the title game.

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with players after winning 2021 Big Ten championship
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with his team after winning the Big Ten Conference championship Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. Michigan beat Iowa 42-3.

Should both teams become unavailable in one of the semifinal games, that game would be declared a no-contest and the team winning the other semifinal game would be crowned national champion.

No. 1 Alabama (12-1) will face No. 4 Cincinnati (13-0) in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Eve, while No. 2 Michigan (12-1) will face No. 3 Georgia (12-1) in the Orange Bowl that evening.

If one team is able to play in the title game and the other can't because of COVID-19, the game could be postponed for up to five days. However, if the game can't be rescheduled, the team that was unavailable on the originally scheduled date would be forced to forfeit.

Should a scenario arise in which both teams can't play on the original or rescheduled date, then the game would be declared a no-contest and the College Football Playoff National Championship would be vacated for the 2021 season.