On Wednesday morning, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be on the sidelines for Saturday's annual meeting with Auburn.
Head athletic trainer Jeff Allen and team doctor James Robinson released the following statement:
"This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19. He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
This is the second time this season that Saban, 69, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus with the first being just days before the Georgia game back in October. After three-consecutive negative tests, that one was proven to be a false positive.
On Wednesday morning, Saban took part in the weekly SEC Coaches Teleconference. While the questions are usually about the Crimson Tide's upcoming competition, Wednesday's series of queries were mostly about Saban's condition.
Saban obliged the public with the details of his testing positive.
“I was informed this morning that I had tested positive,” Saban said. “It was a PCR test which was different from the false positive I had before. I don’t really have any cardinal signs of the virus right now. I don’t have a fever, no loss of taste or smell, no fatigue, no muscle aches. I informed the team this morning at 10 on a Zoom call and I’m the only person in the whole organization that tested positive on this round. I’m still going to do everything possible relative to our team for Saturday’s game with Auburn — participate in meetings, watch practice and all that from home in isolation which I did before. [Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian] will kinda oversee things in the building in my absence.”
This Saturday will be the first time since 2006 that Saban will not be on the sidelines for the Iron Bowl.
Sarkisian filled in for Saban while he was out during the lead up to the matchup with the Bulldogs earlier this season. On Wednesday, Saban said that once again the Alabama offensive coordinator will be filling in for him as the game approaches.
“As it is right now if you’ve tested positive you can have no communication with the sidelines as I understand it so Sark’s been a head coach for many years and has been successful at it,” Saban said. “He’ll still continue to call the plays and we won’t really change anything other than the fact that some of the administrative game day decisions he’ll have to be involved in. We really will discuss that more.
"We had discussed it when I went through this three-day hiatus before the Georgia game we discussed exactly how we’ll do that but we’ll be a little more specific about that later in the week.”
Saban said that he currently only has a runny nose and is not exhibiting any of the other symptoms typically associated with COVID-19.
Alabama continues its preparations for the Iron Bowl as it normally would. Sarkisian has taken over administrative duties in the Mal Moore Athletic Facility but will continue to communicate with and relay information to Saban while he remains quarantined.
Saban said on Wednesday morning that Auburn will present quite a challenge for the Crimson Tide regardless of the fact that he won't be on the sidelines.
“Last time I did this for three days I absolutely did everything from home that I did at the office, just did it on Zoom,” Saban said. “Obviously the Auburn game is a most-important game. We hated that this situation occurred but as I’ve said many times before you gotta be able to deal with disruptions in this year and our players have been pretty mature about doing that. We just want to carry on the best we can and they’ve got a very good team and they’re playing really well right now so it’ll be a real challenge for us so we just got to continue to have great preparation so we can put our players in the best chance to have a chance to be successful.”
When it comes to practicing social distancing and wearing a mask, few coaches in the SEC have been as diligent and outspoken as Saban. On Wednesday, Saban said that he has no idea how he contracted the virus, saying that he only visits his office and his home. He did however reveal that he does sometimes have visitors, so that might have been the root cause of his positive test.
Earlier this season, Saban emphasized the practice of social distancing by using an example with him and his mother.
"Look, I practice social distancing," Saban said earlier this year. "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."