TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Clemson had big plans for Saturday afternoon.
The No. 4 Tigers, two weeks removed from their first regular-season defeat since 2017, were to send a message to the rest of the nation, with Florida State absorbing the brunt of their frustration.
Instead the game scheduled for noon at Doak Campbell Stadium was postponed after a Clemson player who traveled with the team tested positive for COVID-19. He was tested on Friday, but No. 4 Clemson didn't get the results until after the team landed in Tallahassee. Florida State officials were informed and made the decision not to play the game.
The Tigers proposed moving the contest to Sunday or Monday, but the Seminoles declined, according to people close to the team.
“We are disappointed that we will not be able to play today’s game against Florida State," Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich said. "Clemson has followed all of the ACC's protocol in preparation for this game. We now look ahead to returning to action next week against Pitt for Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day at Memorial Stadium.”
The Tigers had an open date last weekend and were not mandated to quarantine on campus.
Clemson's athletic department on Friday announced 18 individuals had tested positive over the previous seven days. A sport-specific breakdown wasn't provided, but it was noted 13 of the positive tests came from athletes and five from staff. The Tigers announce testing results every Friday, and this week's percentage was higher than normal.
The ACC officially announced the postponement about three hours before kickoff. The makeup date for the game is unclear but it could be held Dec. 12., one week before the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.
Clemson redshirt senior running back Darien Rencher chimed in on social media.
“It was not Clemson’s fault,” he wrote on Twitter. “So there’s only one other option to why it did, and the suspects could possibly be seen wearing maroon and gold and reside in Tallahassee, Fla.”
Dan Wolken, a columnist for USA Today, struck a different tone in a piece published Saturday: "Don't blame Florida State for being cautious in calling off Clemson game."
Clemson (7-1, 6-1 ACC) hosts Pittsburgh next weekend, before concluding its regular season at Virginia Tech on Dec. 5. Florida State (2-6, 1-6) plays Virginia and Duke the next two weeks.
Swinney has not made any public comments about the postponement. Florida State coach Mike Norvell, dressed in a suit, addressed the situation on ESPN's College GameDay from inside Doak Campbell.
"We're all about building the trust and the understanding to keep our players safe," Norvell said. "We woke up this morning ready to play this game."
In this most unconventional of seasons, Clemson has routinely been at the fore of the biggest issues. At least 37 Tigers players tested positive for the virus over the summer. Then, amid mass uncertainty about the tenability of a season, Clemson players spearheaded the #WeWantToPlay movement. Then quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the game's most prominent player, tested positive for the virus Oct. 29 and was forced to miss the Boston College and Notre Dame games. The 47-40 road loss to the Fighting Irish, which snapped the Tigers' 36-game regular season win streak, represented a seminal moment.
What happens next is unclear. Though some in Clemson circles have called for the game to be ruled a forfeit for Florida State, such an outcome is unlikely because of television contracts.
Swinney normally addresses the media via teleconference on Sundays after games, and this week he'll be joined by Radakovich.
But first Swinney — and his team — needed to wrap their minds around what happened this weekend.
As the college football world parsed through the madness, the team reoriented its Saturday afternoon plans. Their would be no visit to Doak Campbell. No statement game.
Instead the Tigers hopped on a chartered flight, fastened their seatbelts and, from thousands of feet in the air, tried to make sense of it all.