Since Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Clemson game has always been a big-ticket game for the Seminoles. In the 13 previous trips the Tigers have been to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., the capacity has never dipped below 72,000 and the average attendance has been 79,137.
However, Saturday’s game between the two Atlantic Division rivals is likely to be far below that average. Currently, according to the Florida State Athletic Department, there are large amounts of tickets available in certain areas of the stadium for the noon kickoff, which will be televised nationally on ABC.
Though there will be some empty seats, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney expects it will still be a good crowd and the atmosphere will be just as good as it always has been for a Clemson-Florida State game.
“No, man! This is Clemson-Florida State. Are you kidding me,” Swinney said during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference with the media.
But no one is kidding. Florida State has struggled with its attendance this year, which could be contributed to the ‘Noles 4-3 record to this point.
This season, FSU is averaging 8,617 less than capacity at Doak Campbell Stadium, who’s official capacity is set at 79,560. In their four home games so far this season, the Seminoles are averaging just 70,943 fans and has not sold out a game.
The 8,600 is more than 2,500 from the 6,000 per game dip FSU reportedly took last season in football attendance during a 7-6 year. The largest crowd so far this year to watch a Florida State home game is the 75,237 that saw a ranked ‘Noles team lose to a ranked Virginia Tech team in the season-opener – 4,323 below a sellout. It was the first game of the Willie Taggart era.
Last week, Florida State played in front of a homecoming crowd of just 67,274 as it beat Wake Forest, 38-10.
“I always tell our guys, it is not what surrounds you, it’s what inside you that matters,” Swinney said. “If you only play well because you are playing at home, or you are playing at home and the stadium is half full or if you go on the road and it is a small stadium or a big stadium or whatever, if those are things that determined your performance you are never going to be very good.”
Starting in 1993, the smallest capacity for a Clemson at Florida State game came in 2010, when 72,228 saw FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins drill a 55-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Tigers, 13-10.
However, there’s a chance Saturday’s game at Florida State could be the smallest to see a Clemson at Florida State game since FSU expanded its stadium in the early 1990s.
“I don’t give two seconds of thought to that,” Swinney said. “This is Clemson-Florida State. I know there will be a really good crowd. I will be very surprised if it is not. If it’s not, it really has nothing to do with how we should play the game.
“We have a lot at stake. This is a division game. This is the biggest game of the year. We are looking forward to it and we will be excited and ready to play.”
The 1989 game in Tallahassee, a 34-23 Clemson win, had 61,897 at the game, but that was three years before Doak Campbell expanded to more than 70,000.