One day after Dabo Swinney suggested that Florida State ducked Saturday's game using a Clemson player's positive COVID-19 test as an excuse, Seminoles coach Mike Norvell emphatically denied the charge, saying the decision to postpone was made entirely by medical personnel.
Asked if COVID-19 was the reason for the postponement, Norvell said, "Absolutely," and reiterated that his coaches and players were eager to play Saturday before the school's medical staff determined it unsafe to do so following news that one Clemson player who'd shown symptoms earlier in the week had been allowed to travel with the team to Tallahassee, Florida.
"Football coaches are not doctors. Some of us might think we are, but there's a reason why medical advisers make decisions based on the information that is provided," Norvell said Monday. "It's unfortunate that opportunity has been delayed, but there's a reason people making those decisions have that responsibility."
Norvell said he first learned of the positive test on Clemson's team during a standard Friday evening call between medical professionals at each school. According to FSU, Clemson informed the school of a symptomatic player who had participated in practices and traveled with the team. Clemson noted that proper protocols were followed regarding masks and social distancing, and said the player was kept isolated during travel.
Norvell said that on a Saturday morning call that did not include the coaches, it was determined by Florida State's medical staff that it was unsafe to proceed with the game.
Clemson offered to retest players and staff and delay the game by a day or two, but FSU declined.
Swinney lambasted Florida State's decision Sunday, suggesting that the Seminoles simply didn't want to play.
ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN that league protocols specifically state the ultimate decision on whether to play a game is left up to the medical advisers for both schools, and if they cannot come to an agreement, then the game simply cannot be played. These protocols have been in place since the start of the season, and were designed to avoid questions about motive.
"It's unfortunate and I don't think anyone is in a position to question the decision making of a medical officer in this type of situation," Swofford said. "That's where the decision lies, and in the eyes of our presidents and athletic directors, that's where the decision should lie."
Swofford said he has spoken with both school presidents and both athletic directors, and they have all spoken with each other in order to clear the air.
"I don't think there's any blame here," Swofford said. "We've got to remember the world in which we're operating right now. People are following the protocols as agreed upon before the season started, and people are trying to make the best decisions for the right reasons, and you respect that."
When asked whether there was any way to avoid another scenario where one school questions another's motives about wanting to postpone a game, Swofford said: "At some point you trust the medical people, and that's the ultimate trust point in our protocols that were adopted before the season started."
Norvell said Monday that he'd attempted to contact Swinney after the decision was made Saturday morning, but the two did not connect.
"We were excited to play this game," Norvell said. "We're a young team that needs every rep we can get. I'm not concerned what any other coach says or thinks."
Norvell tested positive for COVID-19 in late September, a day before the team's open date, and he subsequently missed the Seminoles' rivalry game against Miami. He said his own experience with the virus has helped shape his cautious approach to mitigating spread.
While Florida State has not released testing numbers this year, a source said the football team had not had a positive test result since Norvell's.
Though Florida State has steadfastly said it wants to play Clemson on Dec. 12, the Tigers have not be eager to agree to a rescheduled game. Swofford remained hopeful the two would play this year, but added there are no guarantees. The ACC championship game is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Charlotte.
"We want to make certain as we head down the stretch and there are games critical in determining the two teams that would be in Charlotte, that the right games be played at the right time, and so there's no great rush to do this, but hopefully the two teams will play," he said.
ESPN's Andrea Adelson contributed to this report.