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Rose Bowl denied a special exemption from California to allow fans into College Football Playoff

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The Rose Bowl was denied a special exemption from the state of California to allow a few hundred fans to attend the College Football Playoff semifinal Jan. 1, putting the game staying in Pasadena, California, in serious doubt.

A person involved with organizing the game told The Associated Press the Tournament of Roses' request was denied earlier this week.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Rose Bowl and College Football Playoff were still finalizing a plan for what to do with the game. A decision was expected before the playoff teams are selected Sunday, the person said.

The Los Angeles Times was first to report the Rose Bowl was denied an exemption by health officials.

If the game is moved a likely site would be AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The CFP offices are located in suburban Dallas.

Coaches and school officials with playoff contenders have complained about the Rose Bowl being unable to accommodate players' family members because of California's COVID-19 restrictions, put in place as the state tries to fight a public health crisis that is straining its hospitals.

The other College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1 will be held in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl, with current plans to allow 3,000 fans at the Superdome. The championship game is scheduled for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

This is the second time California health officials have denied the Tournament of Roses' request for an exemption to allow fans in the 90,888-seat stadium.

UCLA has been playing its home games at the Rose Bowl as usual since early November.

Los Angeles County is under a stay-home order that took effect earlier this month. Pasadena has its own public health department and can set its own rules, but has mostly followed the county's lead during the coronavirus pandemic.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly even suggested Friday the Fighting Irish could boycott the playoff if they made the field and were forced to play in the Rose Bowl without players' families being permitted to attend.

After Ohio State beat Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game Saturday to improve its chances to earn a spot in the CFP, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day echoed the sentiments of Kelly, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and others.

"I also agree that families need to be there," Day said.

It is unclear if the game moves if it would be called a Rose Bowl. If not, it would be the first time in more than 100 years no Rose Bowl game was played after a college football season. The first Rose Bowl was played Jan. 1, 1902.

The last time the Rose Bowl game was played outside Pasadena was 1942. The game between Oregon State and Duke was played in Durham, North Carolina, because the West Coast was deemed unsafe after the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.