College football fans are in North Texas for the Cotton Bowl national semifinal on Friday afternoon.
Top-ranked Alabama will face No. 4 Cincinnati at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington in the first of two College Football Playoff semifinal games set to take place on New Year's Eve.
“This year is extra special because of last year’s kind of dimmed down number of attendance,” Britton Cunningham Merritt with the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce said.
The Cotton Bowl game brings two large fan bases to Arlington, Cunningham Merritt added. It’s a potential boost for businesses not only in Arlington but North Texas overall.
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“Alabama travels well very as a team no matter where they’re playing during the season and they travel extremely well during playoffs,” she said. “You don’t have to go very far to have a good time and continue celebrating whether you win or lose and ring in the new year. I know we’re all excited for 2022. We’ve had some interesting two years.”
So far, COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of five bowl games. Earlier this week, Cotton Bowl organizers emphasized the extra precautions being taken to ensure Friday’s playoff seminal game kicks off as scheduled.
Media members have not been allowed to view practices or conduct in-person interviews to limit interactions with players and coaches from Alabama or Cincinnati, for example. Certain game weeks have also been virtual this year. Bry Patton, chairman of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association, said he hoped the combined efforts from his staff and both participating teams will pay off in the end.
“We’re doing everything we can within our control. We want to do the right things. We have a terrific staff that pays attention to every detail, and we don’t do it with a lot of people. I think we’ve got the smallest staff within the bowls,” Patton said this week. “They’ve got a lot of 15-20 hour days, and I’m very impressed to be the figurehead of that staff.”
The game between Alabama and Cincinnati is scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m.