- Alabama head coach Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne both tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
- Saban has twice tested negative since his initial positive test.
- If Saban can’t coach offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will serve in his stead for Saturday’s game against Georgia.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and has been isolated from the team ever since. Initially, it didn’t appear as if he’d be able to coach the huge game against #3 ranked Georgia set for Saturday night. Since then, however, reports indicate that Saban has tested negative twice in follow up tests. Furthermore, he remains asymptomatic. There now appears to be a scenario in which he could return to the sidelines in time for the game against Georgia.
Here’s how Alabama Director of Sports Medicine Jeff Allen explained it in a statement released on Friday:
“Coach Saban was evaluated again today by Dr. [Jimmy] Robinson. He continues to be asymptomatic and without fever. We are continuing to follow the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives. A PCR test was repeated Thursday by the SEC-appointed lab and was negative. For clarification, the initial positive result came from an outside lab we’ve used to supplement the SEC mandated testing. He will continue to remain in isolation and receive daily PCR tests. Should he have three negative PCR tests through the SEC-appointed lab, each 24 hours apart, the initial test would be considered a false positive pursuant to SEC protocols and he would be allowed to return.”
Based on Allen’s statement, Saban would have to test negative on Friday and Saturday before 8 PM. If this happens, it would clear Saban to coach the Georgia game under SEC protocol.
If one of the subsequent tests also comes back positive offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will serve as interim head coach. Sarkisian has plenty of head coaching experience at Washington (2009-2013) and USC (2014-2015). Saban is confident that Sarkisian can handle the job:
“Obviously, Sark’s been a head coach before, and I’m not sure exactly how this is going to play out in terms of when the game comes, whether I can have communication with people or not. We’ll have to research and sort of figure that one out. But we did have a plan for each coach on the staff as to what might happen. We’ve just got to go from there. Just like if we lose a player we have to do the same thing.”
It looks like NCAA rules will prohibit Saban from coaching ‘remotely’ if he doesn’t get cleared in time for the game according to a report from USA TODAY:
According to NCAA rule 1-11-4-b, “voice communication” among coaching staffs is limited “between the press box and the team area,” eliminating the option of having Saban serve as Alabama’s head coach from either his home or a suite within Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Sarkisian led team preparation for the Georgia game after Saban’s positive test. Kickoff for the Georgia/Alabama game is 5 PM Pacific on CBS. Currently, the Crimson Tide are showing as a -4.5 point home favorite with a few spots dealing a -5. The total on the game is set at 58.