No. 3 Ohio State is dealing with COVID-19 issues that could cause the College Football Playoff National Championship against No. 1 Alabama to be postponed. Ohio State has reportedly has notified parties involved in the title game that it could be without an entire position group due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing. As such, discussions are ongoing about potentially pushing the game, AL.com first reported Tuesday.
The CFP National Championship remains scheduled for Monday, Jan. 11 at this time. CFP executive director Bill Hancock announced last week that the provisional makeup date for the title game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, is Monday, Jan. 18. Hancock did not return a request for comment about whether the game will be postponed.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is against moving the game off of its scheduled date, according to The Athletic.
"We continue to follow the same protocols as we have all season, and our intent is to play Jan. 11," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.
An Ohio State spokesman told Lettermen Row that Ohio State is preparing to play and practiced Tuesday at its facility.
"Everyone is planning to play the games as scheduled," Hancock said last week. "The teams, schools' staffs and bowl staffs have been working really hard to provide an opportunity for the players. COVID procedures are in place at hotels and stadiums. We have prepared thoroughly, and we are ready. But it always makes sense to be prepared, even for circumstances we don't believe will happen."
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also confirmed that things are all systems go for now.
"Ohio State AD Gene Smith and I have had multiple conversations," he wrote on Twitter. "Both schools are focused on playing in the @CFBPlayoff Championship Game on January 11th."
Yahoo Sports confirmed that the school has been dealing with COVID-19 issues, but there is "confidence behind the scenes" that the small number of cases and contact tracing absences won't prevent the Buckeyes from taking the field.
It is the second time that the program has experienced problems with the global pandemic. Positive tests and contact tracing forced the cancellation of its game vs. Illinois on Nov. 28. Coach Ryan Day was one of those who tested positive earlier this year. Ohio State also had games vs. Maryland and Michigan canceled due to COVID-19 issues at those two schools. Alabama has yet to have significant COVID-19 issues this season, though coach Nick Saban did test positive for coronavirus late in the year.
Any Ohio State player who tested positive for COVID-19 after Dec. 25 would not be able play in the CFP National Championship on Jan. 11, per Big Ten guidelines. The Big Ten recently changed its minimums from 21 days to 17 days for players to sit out who tested positive. Those minimums remain the longest in FBS. Even if the championship game is delayed a week to Jan. 18, any player who tested positive after Jan. 1 would not be able to play per those Big Ten protocols.
CBS Sports reported on Dec. 9 that the four CFP participants would abide by their conferences' testing policies in preparation for the games. The CFP Management Committee (10 FBS commissioners plus Notre Dame) decided against a uniform testing policy. It did not implement a "bubble" where all the teams would play at one site similar to what the NCAA announced Monday for its basketball tournament.