Florida State’s band won’t travel for Clemson football game. Here’s what we know

Later this week, the No. 4 Florida State football team will travel to Upstate South Carolina for a huge ACC game against Clemson.

But, the Seminoles’ band will stay behind in Tallahassee — a decision that’s generated social media banter between both fan bases and added fuel to the Clemson-FSU rivalry fire.

The Florida State Marching Chiefs band will not travel for Saturday’s game at Clemson, an FSU spokesperson confirmed to The State on Monday.

In a letter addressed to fans about that decision and provided to The State by FSU, athletic director Michael Alford attributed the move to Clemson’s new seat location setup for visiting teams, which “presents unique challenges for seating our players’ parents, our season ticket holders and most dramatically the band.”

Clemson historically provided around 1,300 tickets to visiting ACC and non-conference teams in and around the visiting team tunnel area of the lower seating bowl in the west end zone of Memorial Stadium.

It’s that spot where visiting teams (such as South Carolina last year) typically seated their bands in Death Valley, a location that afforded them easy field access for halftime performances.

As part of stadium changes, though, Clemson reduced the number of lower-deck seats allocated to opposing teams from roughly 1,300 to 500 tickets this spring. The other 800 tickets from that lower-deck allocation will be among the designated visiting seats in the upper deck of the stadium.

By reducing Death Valley’s lower-level seating allocation for opposing teams, Clemson is more in line with other ACC schools’ general ticketing philosophies, athletic director Graham Neff told the website TigerNet.com in May in a story detailing various upgrades at the stadium.

“We’ve adjusted the visiting team ticket allocation in and around the visiting team tunnel,” Neff told the website May 12. “Whereas before, we have basically provided 2,000 tickets to each visiting team there. And at their discretion, those that bring a band put their band right there, and a lot of player guests and donors.

“We’ve been to plenty of places in our league and outside of our league where the location of visiting team tickets has not been as good, where our band is in the upper deck and where our donors and player parents aren’t close. So we have reduced the amount of visiting team tickets significantly there.”

Alford cited that reduction in lower-bowl tickets — which, according to a university spokesperson, was communicated in March 2023 to teams that were playing at Clemson this season — in explaining FSU’s decision to not send its band to Clemson.

“Clemson’s stadium has an upper deck where the majority of our tickets are located,” Alford wrote. “They are not in a traditional block but spread over several rows of eight sections in that upper deck. Our Marching Chiefs would not have been able to perform at halftime of the game and the seating would have made coordinating in-game playing particularly difficult.”

Alford, in his email to FSU fans, added that “in fairness to Clemson, the seating blocks they are provided at our games in Doak Campbell (Stadium) also make it difficult to seat their band together during the game”

New Clemson University students gather for the Tiger Paw shaped Entering Year Photo inside Memorial Stadium, Friday, August 21, 2023. Ken Ruinard / staff/USA TODAY NETWORK
New Clemson University students gather for the Tiger Paw shaped Entering Year Photo inside Memorial Stadium, Friday, August 21, 2023. Ken Ruinard / staff/USA TODAY NETWORK

Explaining Clemson’s seating setup

Clemson’s visiting ticket allocation first came under scrutiny last week after Seminole Boosters — FSU’s official booster club and athletics fundraising arm — sent an email to members who purchased tickets for the Clemson game detailing those aforementioned changes.

That email went viral on the platform X (formerly Twitter) and generated about 350,000 views after it was leaked and posted Sept. 13 by the account @RFSUSports.

“Clemson scared,” the account wrote. An FSU website also picked up the email and wrote about it with the following headline: “Is Clemson scared of an FSU takeover in Death Valley?”

“It looks as though the Tigers are attempting to get every advantage in a game they desperately need to win for any hope of making it to the ACC Championship game this year,” the website ChopChat.com wrote Sept. 13.

But that’s not the case, a Clemson spokesperson told The State.

Since it’s a conference game, Clemson-FSU falls under the ACC’s ticketing policy in which the home team provides the road team with roughly 4,300 tickets.

Road teams generally distribute an initial round of tickets to coach and player guests, band members and staff and give the remaining tickets to their booster club for distribution.

For reference, Clemson usually has about 3,000 tickets to distribute through IPTAY, its booster club/athletics fundraising arm, after accounting for all coach and player guests, band members and staff for ACC road games.

Neff, in the TigerNet story, said road teams have always been free to divvy up their lower-deck ticket allocation between band members, donors and players’ parents.

Clemson’s change earlier this year was not a reduction in total visitor ticket allocation but rather a reduction in what percentage of those visitors tickets are in the lower deck, a spokesperson said. The decision means the clear majority of those visiting ticket seats are now in the upper deck.

That is a routine occurrence across the ACC, Neff said, something that FSU’s AD, Alford, also acknowledged. TigerNet highlighted Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Virginia Tech as road venues where Clemson’s had minimal lower-deck seating and its band, Tiger Band, sat and played in the upper deck as a result.

FSU isn’t the only school that’ll have to make a decision on sending its band to Clemson. Clemson’s other 2023 ACC home opponents (UNC, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest) will be subject to the same visiting ticket allotment, as will Notre Dame, a non-conference opponent.

Though each school’s preference wasn’t immediately known, a Clemson spokesperson said the school anticipated a few of those teams to still bring their bands and a few not to as a result of the change.

Oct 15, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney before a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Melina Myers/USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney before a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Melina Myers/USA TODAY Sports

Another Clemson FSU controversy

Marc Ryan, an Upstate S.C. radio host, said on the platform X it was “insanity” for Florida State fans to call out Clemson for “making their ticket allotment in line with other schools.”

In reaction to FSU fans’ social media reaction to the policy, Ryan and a number of Clemson fans also brought up Florida State’s day-of cancellation of a 2020 home game against Clemson.

No. 4 Clemson was set to play at FSU as a 35.5-point favorite on Nov. 21, 2020 before Florida State postponed the game hours before kickoff in reaction to a Tigers offensive lineman testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

Clemson isolated the unidentified player and sent him back to campus that Friday. David Coburn, FSU’s athletic director at the time, told The Associated Press the FSU administration “listened to our medical folks and their assessment of the risk and we decided it wasn’t safe to play today.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and then-AD Dan Radakovich expressed their disappointment at the situation and said they felt like Clemson met the medical standard to play the game.

“This game was not canceled because of COVID,” Swinney said at the time. “COVID was just an excuse to cancel the game.”

Heading into this Saturday’s game, Clemson has won seven straight games against Florida State dating back to 2015. Before that, FSU won three straight games in the series from 2012-15 and five of seven games from 2008-15.

The Tigers and the Seminoles — who are permanent opponents through 2026 under the ACC’s divisionless scheduling — used to meet annually in the ACC Atlantic Division and finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the preseason ACC predicted order of finish.

No. 4 Florida State is a consensus 2.5-point favorite at unranked Clemson on Saturday (noon, ABC), marking the first time since 2016 and only the third time this decade the Tigers have been a home underdog at Memorial Stadium.