Why Is the Rose Bowl Being Played in Texas at AT&T Stadium?

The Grandaddy of Them All. The Tournament of Roses Parade. It’s all part of the Rose Bowl brand that’s been featured for more than a century on New Year’s Day in California. In 2021, during the middle of a pandemic, things will be very different. There will be no parade. And there will be no college football game in Pasadena. Instead, this year’s Rose Bowl will be played in Texas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Why? 

How Notre Dame and Alabama made it to 2021 College Football Playoff semifinal

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The 2021 Rose Bowl and one of two College Football Playoff semifinals will feature the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide with a perfect 11-0 record against the No. 4-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and a 10-1 record. 

Under head coach Brian Kelly and senior quarterback Ian Book’s offensive leadership, Notre Dame played well this year, including an impressive 47-40 double-overtime thriller over the-then No. 1-ranked Clemson Tigers in South Bend. The Irish were ranked as high as No. 2 during the season and finished 4th in the College Football Playoff standings after losing to Clemson in a rematch at the ACC Championship, 34-10. 

The Alabama Crimson Tide were totally dominant this season. The SEC Championship against the Florida Gators was the lone game this season where Alabama’s opponent kept the final score within a touchdown. The Tide won every other contest by at least two touchdowns. 

The Alabama defense was its typical stellar self. The Tide offense was equally impressive as junior quarterback Mac Jones, who started his first season under center, combined with running back Najee Harris and receiver Devonta Smith to create an unstoppable offensive attack that averaged 49.7 points per contest, second in the nation.

Jones and Smith were both rewarded for their efforts with invites to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. 

Why did the Rose Bowl move to Texas? 

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In early December, officials announced the Rose Bowl game would be played without any fans per orders from the state, county, and city officials due to the continuing increase in COVID cases. After the state twice-rejected Tournament of Roses officials’ requests that sought an exemption to allow guests of players and coaches to attend, they decided it was time to move the game. 

In mid-December, the College Football Playoff Management Committee and Tournament of Roses announced that the Rose Bowl/College Football Playoff semifinal would be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where 16,000 fans would be allowed to attend. 

“We are very grateful to Rose Bowl officials and the City of Pasadena. They have worked hard to listen to the concerns of CFP, the teams that might have played there, and their state and government officials,” said Bill Hancock, who is the executive director of the College Playoff Management Committee. 

Pasadena allows use of Rose Bowl name in Texas

While CFP officials decided to move the semifinal game from California to Texas, there was no official agreement in place that would allow them to keep the Rose Bowl name. There were meetings, including one in Pasadena where some suggested “it was wrong” to call the game in Dallas the Rose Bowl. 

However, those concerns were addressed in the form of a $2 million “gift,” according to The Athletic. The agreement allows for a one-time branding shift with the Tournament of Roses paying the City of Pasadena $2 million. This amount will help the city offset some of the lost dollars, which in an average year approaches around $68 million from the game alone.

It’s a new year and a new stadium for the Rose Bowl. After what the college football season and sports as a whole experienced in 2020, a fresh start can’t come soon enough.