Clemson (6-1), ranked fourth in the nation and a five-touchdown favorite against the 1-6 Seminoles, arrived in Tallahassee on Friday, at which point the school learned of the positive test. The matchup was postponed Saturday morning, a few hours before kickoff, after the ACC said “both teams’ medical personnel were unable to mutually agree on moving forward with the game.”
“We listened to our medical folks and their assessment of the risk, and we decided it wasn’t safe to play today,” Florida State Athletic Director David Coburn told the Associated Press.
To Swinney, such a decision should not have been on the table.
“The standard to cancel a game was not met,” he said. “A guy testing positive on Friday does not cancel a game. I was on every committee call for months, since March, and that was never the case. Never once was it said that if a team had a player test positive on Friday that the game would be canceled. The only thing that we talked about in canceling games was not having enough scholarship guys or at least seven offensive linemen. We offered to play Saturday night, Sunday, Monday — and it was declined.
“We met the standard to play, and we should have played.”
Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, on the same conference call, backed his coach’s assertions.
“Upon hearing Florida State’s concern, Clemson offered to undergo another round of testing and came up with some different alternatives, even to play the game later on Saturday or Sunday,” said Radakovich. “But we could not come to an agreement. We did everything in our power to play and followed all agreed-upon ACC protocols to do so.”
“We’re all about building the trust and the understanding to keep our players safe,” Florida State Coach Mike Norvell said Saturday on ESPN. “I can tell you that we woke up today ready to play this game.”
On Monday, Norvell appeared to refer to Swinney’s comments in telling reporters, “Football coaches are not doctors. Some of us might think that we are, but there’s a reason why medical advisers make decisions based on the information that is provided."
According to Swinney, the positive test came from a reserve offensive lineman who had experienced “mild symptoms” but “felt fine” and tested negative earlier in the week.
Asked if he had given any thought to not bringing the player on the road trip, the coach replied, “So now we are changing the rules? You either trust the test or you don’t. So now if they test negative, we are going to tell guys they can’t play anyway? I don’t know what to tell you on that. You either trust the test or you don’t, it’s that simple. That’s why we test. If a guy has an earache or a runny nose and he tests negative all week, we say we don’t take you? You either trust the test or you don’t. And the rules are what they are.”
“This is a virus, and we all know what we are dealing with,” he added. “Bottom line, the rules were put in place for everyone, and we more than met the standard to play, and they made the decision not to play. So you can say whatever you want, I don’t know what their reasoning was.”
In a statement Saturday, Norvell said, “We hope to be able to play Clemson in December.” Both teams’ regular seasons are scheduled to end Dec. 5, and while Clemson is on track to appear in the ACC championship game Dec. 19, it could have an open date the week before.
Radakovich said he would work with the ACC on rescheduling the Florida State game, and he confirmed reports that the trip cost Clemson approximately $300,000. Swinney asserted that if the two teams are to meet later this season, it should either be at Clemson or FSU should foot the bill for the Tigers to travel again.
“I have no doubt that their players wanted to play and would have played. And same with the coaches,” he told reporters.
“To me, the Florida State administration forfeited the game, and if they want to play Clemson, in my opinion, they need to come to Clemson or they need to play for all expenses. Other than that, there is no reason for us to play them.”