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COVID-19 Pushes Iconic Rose Bowl Game From Pasadena To Arlington

The exterior of AT&T Stadium is shown in this general, overall view before an NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth
Associated Press
The exterior of AT&T Stadium is shown in this general, overall view before an NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Rose Bowl Game, the iconic New Year's Day college football matchup, is migrating from Pasadena, California, to Arlington.

Notre Dame and Alabama will face off at AT&T Stadium on Friday afternoon.

Game officials decided to move the Rose Bowl after the state of California denied two requests to allow certain spectators to attend in person, according to a press release.

“The decision to move the game is based on the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Southern California along with the inability to host player and coach guests at any game in California,” the press release states.

Almost 18,000 ticketswereavailable for the Cotton Bowl game scheduled for Wednesday at the stadium. That's a quarter of the stadium’s usual capacity.

Taylor Wilson is an attorney and the incoming president of the Notre Dame Club of Dallas. She said that despite the short notice of the game’s move to Texas, there hasn’t been a big scramble to plan anything. The club isn't sponsoring any in-person events.

“I know that the bars locally could use the support. With COVID numbers as they are, though, we’re not hosting any actual game watches,” Wilson said.

To understand how big of a deal these games usually are, when Notre Dame played in the Cotton Bowl in 2018, there were four nights of events to plan for, Wilson said. They even observed a Notre Dame tradition by holding a large pre-game Mass at a hotel. This year, theMasswill be virtual.

Alumni also traditionally mount a service project in the communities that host them as neutral sites, but now they’re encouraging people to donate to their local food banks, Wilson said.

Wilson said she decided to go to the game in person. She said she’s satisfied with AT&T Stadium’s safety protocols, which include seating people who already know each other in small groups and spacing out those groups throughout the stadium.

“The university and the club are very much asking people to be safe, take precautions, and it’s very important that we understand that this game is not for the fans. It’s for the boys that are playing,” she said.

The Rose Bowl is yet another sporting event that has turned to Arlington for sanctuary after being displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Finals Rodeo moved to Arlington from Las Vegas this year to escape Vegas’ stricter COVID protocols, and Major League Baseball held the entire World Series at Globe Life Field.

But just as they are in Pasadena, medical resources in Tarrant County are facing significant strain. Hospital ICUs are 97% full. Earlier this month, the county medical examiner’s office brought in refrigerated trucks to make room for more corpses.

Those trucks went into use over the past weekend, a medical examiner’s office spokesperson said in an email, and they will stay for as long as they are needed.

Rajesh Nandy is a professor at the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health. He said there's no safe way to go to a big game right now.

"These are likely to be superspreader events," he said.

He pointed out that it's not just being at the games people have to worry about — but the crowded bars and restaurants that go along with them.

Nandy recommended going beyond safety requirements and getting a test before heading to the stadium.

Not all games have been able to go on as usual during the pandemic. An outbreak on the Texas Christian University football team forced the cancellation of the Texas Bowl between TCU and Arkansas, according to a press release.

For now, the Rose Bowl is still happening, and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said at a press conference that his players are excited, “Even though the game's gonna be played in Dallas.”

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.