Florida State coach Mike Norvell defends postponement of Clemson game

“I’m not concerned about what any other coach says or thinks,” he says. “I’m focused on what we’re doing here.”
Florida State and Clemson didn't play last week, as originally scheduled.
Florida State and Clemson didn't play last week, as originally scheduled. [ RICHARD SHIRO | AP ]
Published Nov. 23, 2020|Updated Nov. 24, 2020

A day after Clemson coach Dabo Swinney publicly questioned Florida State’s motives for calling off Saturday’s game three hours before kickoff, Seminoles coach Mike Norvell reaffirmed his support for the decision.

Norvell defended his program and its move not to play the No. 4 Tigers, but he didn’t take many, if any, shots at Clemson or Swinney during his weekly Monday news conference.

Related: Want something to blame for the Florida State-Clemson postponement? Blame the virus.

“We were excited to play this game,” Norvell said. “We were excited about the opportunity. We are a young team that needs every rep that we can get. This is a program that we are continuing to build upon the base foundation of not only who we are but where we’re going.”

Norvell said he tried to call Swinney on Saturday, but the two have not talked.

“Football coaches are not doctors, some of us might think that we are,” said Norvell, who missed a game earlier this season after testing positive. “There’s a reason why those (medical) advisers are able to make those decisions from the information provided. …

“I’m not concerned about what any other coach says or thinks. I’m focused on what we’re doing here.”

And here’s what they were doing over the weekend in Tallahassee, according to Norvell:

The teams’ medical personnel had a normal call Friday night to discuss the game. That’s when FSU learned that Clemson had a player test positive for the coronavirus. The player had been symptomatic during the week, practiced with the team some and traveled to Tallahassee.

Those facts “raised a lot of concerns” for FSU’s health experts. Norvell said it was the first time the Seminoles learned of a positive test the day before a game, either in their program or in the one they were set to face.

Both sides’ medical advisers talked again Saturday morning, as usual. FSU said it didn’t feel comfortable playing.

“There’s where the final decision was made to postpone the contest,” Norvell said.

Mike Norvell said FSU's medical personnel, not coaching staff, decided to call of the Clemson game.
Mike Norvell said FSU's medical personnel, not coaching staff, decided to call of the Clemson game. [ JAMIE RHODES | ACC Pool ]

Norvell wasn’t involved in that conversation and didn’t find out until afterward, when he got a call during the pregame meal. The team then returned to what Norvell described as a “surreal” scene at Doak Campbell Stadium, where some players worked out or received medical treatment before heading home. “It’s unfortunate to everybody that the game was postponed,” Norvell said. “Nobody wanted this.”

But, from FSU’s perspective, the potential exposure to Clemson made the game too risky to play. Clemson disagreed at the time and has continued to disagree publicly.

First, Tigers athletic director Dan Radakovich stressed that Clemson followed the ACC’s protocols, which are more ambiguous than those in the SEC. Radakovich said he was also upset that Clemson spent about $300,000 on a road trip for a game that never happened.

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On Sunday, Swinney took it even farther. The two-time national championship coach said that the coronavirus was “just an excuse to cancel the game” and that in his mind, “Florida State administration forfeited the game.”

Related: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney: Coronavirus was Florida State’s ‘excuse to cancel game’

During a Monday morning interview on the ACC Network, Radakovich raised the possibility of the conference using a third-party arbiter to resolve these types of disputes. He also suggested that Clemson will not travel to FSU again, even though the teams share an open date, Dec. 12, to potentially reschedule the game. Swinney has said Clemson should be reimbursed for expenses or host the game, if it’s rescheduled.

Norvell didn’t seem interested in getting into a drawn-out, cross-conference debate. He called it “disappointing when you hear accusations of reasoning or intent” because his players are all sacrificing so much personally to try to salvage a season from the pandemic.

He said “the back and forth on Twitter, the statements and press conferences” have no impact on FSU’s game this weekend against Virginia.

Norvell acknowledged that the Tigers are unhappy about wasting money on travel. But FSU also suffered financially from the postponement. “I know that there’s a lot of things that are being said when it comes to financial (issues),” he said. “If contributions need to be made, then I’ll sign up to make one.”

As for any notion that COVID-19 concerns were a convenient excuse by a five-touchdown underdog to duck a College Football Playoff contender?

Related: Meet the FSU fan who got Mike Norvell’s cornrows tattooed on his leg

“It absolutely was a (COVID-19) issue,” Norvell said. “Our guys were ready to play, and we wanted to play that game. We still look forward to it come Dec. 12 with the opportunity here in Tallahassee.”