Alabama coach Nick Saban acknowledged there were discussions about possibly moving the national championship game back because of COVID-19 issues.
The Associated Press and others have reported that Ohio State had spoken with CFP officials about possible player availability problems for the Buckeyes that could force the game to be delayed from Monday night in suburban Miami.
Saban said, “There were discussions as to whether it was fair to continue or to move the game back and all that.” But he noted that Alabama students return next week, creating “difficult management issues if we would have moved the game back.”
Asked Wednesday if the game was still on track to be played Monday night, Ohio State coach Ryan Day said: “Correct.”
“We'll have plenty of players" available, Day said, though he didn't disclose a specific number.
Saban also cited the Jan. 18 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft as a factor against pushing the title game back.
“So just the whole timing of the whole thing would have been a tough management,” the Alabama coach said. “But I would have put player safety on either team as the most important factor in this decision.”
Don't look for either coach to offer specifics on the status of their injured stars, Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields or Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.
Fields was banged up in the semifinal game against Clemson, and Ohio State coach Ryan Day has indicated he would play without specifying the nature of the injury.
“No real update. Don't really give out injury updates,” Day said.
Fields didn't either, but did say Thursday: “I’ll be good by Monday night.”
At Alabama, Waddle has been practicing this week trying to return from an ankle injury that required surgery.
Saban was non-committal about Waddle, noting that some players returning from injuries become too sore to practice the next day and others get stronger.
“So that’s a work in progress right now, so you really can’t predict where he might be,” he said.
STILL RUNNING HOT
Day can’t help but feel like he’s been on a treadmill gradually being tilted uphill in his first two seasons as the Buckeyes head coach.
It actually started in 2018 when he was an Ohio State assistant and was thrust into the role of interim coach when Urban Meyer was suspended for three games. He took over after Meyer’s retirement in January 2019, persuaded Fields to transfer to Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to the playoff semifinal game last season. Then, early in spring practice, 2020 was turned on its head by COVID-19.
He’s had little time to slow down.
“Hopefully, after this game I will take a deep breath,” he said. “Anyways, I feel like during these past two, two and half years, even a little bit more, I just haven’t been able to take a deep breath. You know, into March I was able to, and then the quarantine hit and then it just became chaos again.
"So looking forward to finishing this thing the right way and then taking a deep breath and decompressing and trying to reflect on what happened this year.”
SABAN GOT JOKES
Alabama tight end Miller Forristall believes Saban is funnier than people know. But the 69-year-old coach might need some fresh jokes since he’s still using some material from his days coaching Ronnie Brown with the Miami Dolphins.
“He definitely needs some new material,” Forristall said, laughing. “I was talking to Ronnie Brown the other day, another Cartersville (Georgia High School) alum, and he mentioned a joke Coach Saban said to him when he was in Miami, and I said he used that one the other day.
“It’s been a while since he was in Miami. Coach is a lot more lively and a lot more jovial than people just assume ... he’s a lot more fun to be around than people take him as.”
Saban is known for a gruff, no-nonsense exterior, but players get to see a different side of him — and the program.
“People take that we have no fun and that he’s no fun,” Forristall said. “He thinks he’s funnier than he is, but he is pretty funny.”
Not surprisingly, tickets on the secondary market are pricey for this game. One company, TickPick, said the average purchase price has been $1,759.68, with the cheapest ticket currently available for $1,045.
The average price is 34% higher than the six-year average of title games ($1,313.22). Only the 2018 championship game between Alabama and Georgia cost more on average: $2,210.06, according to the company.
The average for last year’s LSU-Clemson game: $1,584.99.
This time capacity is limited to about 16,000 fans and no tickets were sold directly to the general public.
___ AP Sports Writer Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.
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