Alabama coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not coach Saturday’s game against Auburn.
According to a statement released by the university, Saban received the positive test Wednesday morning and is showing “very mild symptoms.” Because Saban is symptomatic, the test will not be categorized as a false positive.
“He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home,” team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and head athletic trainer Jeff Allen said in the statement.
Saban said that other than a runny nose, he is experiencing no major symptoms of the coronavirus such as fatigue or loss of taste or smell. No other coaches or players have received positive tests on Wednesday, Saban said.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he was sorry to hear of Saban’s positive test.
“I hope he makes a speedy recovery,” he said. “It’s gonna be a really weird deal playing an Iron Bowl without Nick being there.”
While Saban couldn’t be sure what contact tracing would yield in terms of any players or coaches who might be deemed high-risk and therefore would have to quarantine, he expressed optimism that no one else would be affected.
“Based on how we manage things internally in the building, I can’t see any issues with coaches and the players,” Saban said. “But that’s up to [the contact tracing officials].”
Saban, 69, will have to isolate for at least 10 days, which would put his return on Dec. 4, one day before the scheduled regular-season finale at Arkansas. According to SEC protocol, “At least 24 hours must have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and symptom improvement (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, etc.) has occurred, in accordance with current CDC guidance for isolation.”
With Saban ruled out against Auburn, the head-coaching duties will fall to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian, who was previously a head coach at USC and Washington, had been designated for head-coaching duties after Saban’s positive test in October.
Sarkisian will continue to call plays on offense.
“We won’t change anything other than some of the administrative, game-day decisions he’ll have to be involved in,” Saban said.
Rules prohibit coaches from participating in game-day activities remotely. However, Saban will be able to continue to be part of preparations leading up to Saturday’s game, leading video conferences and watching practice from his home.
“You have to be able to deal with disruptions this year, and I think our players have been pretty mature about doing that,” Saban said. “So we just want to carry on the best we can. [Auburn] has a very good team and they’re playing really well right now, so it will be a real challenge for us and we just have to continue to have great preparation.”
Last month, Saban received what was eventually deemed to be a false positive test. After initially testing positive, he had three consecutive negative tests and was able to coach the Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia.
Alabama is undefeated and is No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
At least 18 FBS head coaches have tested positive for COVID-19 this season, including two from the SEC: Florida’s Dan Mullen and Arkansas’ Sam Pittman.
Saban said he doesn’t know how he contracted the virus.
“I’m around nobody,” he said. “I go home, and I go to the office. I have no idea.”