Florida Gators football

COVID-19 shadows title game as college football season ends


For sports fans, the odd atmosphere has become frustratingly familiar — like Alabama, which beat Ohio State 52-24 to complete an unbeaten season, the Lakers, Lightning and Dodgers won championships in mostly empty arenas.


1of13Fans watch before an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Wilfredo Lee/AP Show MoreShow Less 2of13Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24.Lynne Sladky/AP Show MoreShow Less 3of13Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches his team during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Ohio State, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Lynne Sladky/AP Show MoreShow Less 4of13Fans cheer their team before an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Wilfredo Lee/AP Show MoreShow Less 5of13Fans watches during warm ups before an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Wilfredo Lee/AP Show MoreShow Less 6of13A Ohio State fan reacts during the second half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Lynne Sladky/AP Show MoreShow Less 7of13Ohio State head coach Ryan Day watches his team during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Lynne Sladky/AP Show MoreShow Less 8of13A security officer checks a fan arriving for an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Lynne Sladky/AP Show MoreShow Less 9of13A security officer checks as fans arrive for an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Chris O'Meara/AP Show MoreShow Less 10of13Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood holds the trophy for his teammates to touch after an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Ohio State, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24.Wilfredo Lee/AP Show MoreShow Less 11of13Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning forces a fumble by Alabama quarterback Mac Jones during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Wilfredo Lee/AP Show MoreShow Less 12of13Alabama celebrates after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24.Wilfredo Lee/AP Show MoreShow Less 13of13A security officer checks a fan arriving for an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.Lynne Sladky/AP Show MoreShow Less But the challenges college football faced in navigating the pandemic were unique, as Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith noted after catching three touchdown passes to lead Alabama to victory.


Many were pessimistic the season would ever reach the finish line when it began Aug. 29 with the Guardian Kickoff Classic between Austin Peay and Central Arkansas, a game attended by far fewer than the 2,000 tickets that were available.


Ohio State was without 13 players, and while the school didn't give a reason, Day acknowledged last week the Buckeyes were dealing with new cases of the virus.


That made it appropriate he was at the center of the championship trophy celebration, to applause from masked, socially distancing Crimson Tide fans scattered around the stadium.


“Perseverance probably is the one word that describes this team the best,” Saban said, “in terms of what they’ve had to overcome all season long to go undefeated and win a championship.”






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