As the SEC continues to grapple with COVID-19 issues around the conference, University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne have both tested positive for the virus, per the school.
“Early this afternoon, we received notification that Coach Saban and Greg Byrne tested positive for COVID-19," Head athletic trainer Jeff Allen and Dr. Jimmy Robinson said in a press release. "Both immediately left the facility and went to their homes to self-isolate after receiving that information. At this point in time, the positive tests are limited to those two individuals. All individuals who are considered high risk contacts have been notified and will follow quarantine guidelines. We will follow the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives.”
Saban, who will turn 69 on Oct. 31, informed the press in a statement that Crimson Tide assistant Steve Sarkisian will oversee operations in his absence.
“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19," Saban said. "I immediately left work and isolated at home. At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID, and I have taken another PCR test to confirm my diagnosis. I informed our team of my positive test at 2 p.m. today on a Zoom call and let them know offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will oversee preparations at the complex while I work from home.”
Saban is the fourth-oldest coach in the FBS and oldest in the Southeastern Conference.
Here is an update from Kristen Saban Setas, Nick's daughter:
Later on Wednesday evening, Saban met with the media via Zoom and was in good spirits, sharing what he is most concerned with about his diagnosis. As of now, the game against No. 3 Georgia on Saturday is still on as scheduled.
"I feel fine, so I'm not really concerned that much about my health, but you never know," Saban said. "I just want to make — look, I basically feel like when we're in our own personal bubble here, I think everybody's in a much safer place. I think as soon as you travel, you get exposed to a lot more things and a lot more people, if that makes any sense, even though I've worn a mask all the time: in the hotel, on the bus, in the plane. So nobody really knows how this occurs, but I know that our medical staff has done a really good job and the No. 1 thing I would be concerned about is can the players still go out and focus on the game and play the game? It's a big game for them.
"Our goal as coaches is always to get them in the best position they can be in to be able to have success, and we need to try to continue to do that. That would be the greatest concern that I have. I haven't blocked anybody or tackled anybody, caught any passes, thrown any passes in a game in a long, long time, so it's still going to be up to how the players are able to execute and it's up to us to try to get them in the best position to do that."
Before the season, Saban addressed the COVID-19 protocols and steps the athletic department was taking to combat the virus.
"So you callin’ me an old — I’m not gonna say it," Saban said. "Look, we have a lot of respect for what we need to do with everyone in our organization in terms of what we have to do to stay safe. We all wear masks in our building; I just took mine off to come in here. Because it was so hot outside, I wear one that’s around your neck and you pull up like you’re robbing a bank — whatever they’re called. Everybody in the building does that. And we’ve done everything we can do here. We have Syntex in the building, which is supposed to kill germs and all kind of stuff circulating. We test our players at the beginning on Sunday. We’ve done it ever since the Fourth of July so they know that the players they’re working out with are healthy and safe. And we do it later in the week. Our players are used to being tested twice a week, which most people is just starting now but we’ve been doing that all along because I want every player to know that the guy he was working out with or doing some drill with or whatever was not something that he had to fear. I think that’s helped us tremendously.
"Look, I practice social distancing. We try to keep our distance when we’re away from here, our personal bubble, Miss Terry and I and our immediate family. When I go see my mother who’s 88 years old, we sit 10 feet apart on a park bench and talk for 45 minutes or an hour and I say, ‘Mom, I’m not giving you a hug today because I love you.’ I think there’s a lot of changes that we all have to make in our lifestyle and the things that we do to try to stay safe, and we certainly have respected those things. We do the same thing when we’re in meetings with players — we stay spread out, everybody has social distance, everybody wears a mask. So we’re doing everything we can to stay safe. I don’t fear this because we’re trying to do the right thing and we have great medical care here and we have great medical protocols to try to keep people safe. And I feel very confident in trying to respect and do those things as well as possible."
This news comes off the heels of Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin revealing today on the SEC coaches teleconference that his Rebels program had positive tests following their game against the Crimson Tide this past weekend.
Two SEC games have already been postponed this weekend due to COVID-19 issues including Missouri/Vanderbilt and LSU/Florida. Byrne also released the following statement:
“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive," Byrne said. "Upon hearing the news, I immediately entered self-isolation and will remain at home and follow all guidelines. We’ve been diligent about mask wearing and social distancing from the start and want to continue to encourage you all to take the necessary precautions to help stop the spread of this virus for yourself and those around you.”