Georgia will have a different College Football Playoff experience in the Orange Bowl due to the surge in COVID-19 cases nationally from the omicron variant that is affecting the sports world and its own program.
All press conferences are going virtual in South Florida ahead of the Dec. 31 game against Michigan in a national semifinal in Miami Gardens, Fla., the College Football Playoff announced. Teams will have the option of arriving as late as two days before the game and bowl events — a beach party and dinner at a steakhouse — are now optional.
“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,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director. “These policies will better protect our students and staffs while providing clarity in the event worst-case scenarios result. …We certainly wish we were not in this position, but the only responsible thing is to take whatever actions we can reasonably take to better protect those who play and coach the game.”
Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels and wide receiver George Pickens have tested positive for COVID-19, the Athens Banner-Herald confirmed through sources. Dawgnation was first to report on Pickens entering COVID-19 protocols.
Alabama, which is playing Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl semifinal, has had positive cases on its coaching staff, it announced Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Doug Marrone are experiencing “very mild symptoms,” according to the school,” but should coach in the game.
Texas A&M pulled out of the Dec. 31 Gator Bowl game against Wake Forest — a non-playoff game — it announced. AD Ross Bjork told TexAgs.com the team is down to 38 scholarship players
Under current SEC COVID-19 policies, a player with COVID-19 symptoms, must be tested including those who have received the vaccine.
Those with symptomatic infection must isolate for 10 days from symptom onset, but that could change.
“We’re reviewing our protocols and will make an announcement if there is any change,” a league spokesperson said via email Wednesday.
NCAA leaders have talked to officials with the CDC about changes to its mandatory 10-day quarantine, SI.com reported.
The CFP said if a semifinal team can’t play it will forfeit and the other opponent would advance to the Jan. 10 championship game in Indianapolis. If neither team can play, the winner of the other semifinal would be declared national champion. If only one of the semifinal teams is able to play on Dec. 31, that team would be declared national champion.
The national championship game could be pushed back to Jan. 14 if needed.
Georgia has practiced on campus including on Wednesday morning and was to leave for Miami on Sunday, a day after Michigan was to fly to Fort Lauderdale.
The school has had no comment on reports of positive tests inside the football program and no immediate word on if its travel plans may change.
Georgia players were to go home to see family for the Christmas holiday but players Tuesday said they were taking more precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 in its own facility.
“We don’t want to lose any players to something we can kind of prevent, which is putting back on our masks,” defensive lineman Travon Walker said. “That has been a conversation.”
Said outside linebacker Nolan Smith: “I know everyone thought we were done with the masks and now the masks came back. Anything to do to win games. That’s not in question in terms of keeping the team safe.”