Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and is self-isolating at home while continuing to oversee his team’s practices via Zoom.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive on Wednesday.
“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19,” Saban said in a statement. “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.”
Saban, who was working from his home, was upbeat as he addressed reporters on a Zoom call tonight, laughing and joking that “something must be bad wrong as much as I look forward to these Wednesday press conferences for me not to be there with you today.”
Saban, 68, said he was feeling fine before the positive test result, which he said surprised him.
“I feel fine, so I’m not really concerned that much about my health, but you never know,” Saban said. “Look, I basically feel like when we’re in our own personal bubble here everybody is 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.”
Saban said he informed his players of his positive test in a Zoom call at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
He said his message to players has been to assume that anyone they come into contact with might be infected, and to be cautious.
Alabama plans to test everybody within the football program on Thursday.
The program began daily testing for its players in September.
Saban said he was able to monitor practice today via Zoom, and could talk on the phone with a staff member if there was anything he saw that needed correction.
“I had the manager have a phone,” he explained. “If I wanted a play repeated, I said, ‘Repeat that play, so-and-so messed up.’ I didn’t leave the country or anything. I’m just right down the street. And we have this technology, so it’s really unique.”
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who was the head coach at Washington from 2009 to 2013 and USC in 2014 and ’15, has been placed in charge of operations on the ground with Saban away, but the issue of how much autonomy Sarkisian has to make decisions is something Saban says they haven’t decided yet.
Saban was unsure what level of involvement he’d be able to have during Saturday’s home game against No. 3 Georgia, saying the issue of in-game communication was something they’d have to look into.
Regardless, Sarkisian will remain the offensive play-caller whether he’s performing as the head coach or not, according to Saban.
Alabama team physicians Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allen said Saban and Byrne were the only two individuals who tested positive “at this point in time” and said the school will follow the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives.
“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive,” Byrne said in a statement. “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.”
CDC guidelines say those with positive tests must isolate for 10 days, and contact tracing requires a 14-day quarantine.
Saban is one of a handful of FBS head coaches to test positive for the coronavirus.
Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Kansas’ Les Miles, Toledo’s Jason Candle and Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson have also announced positive tests.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s game between No. 10 Florida and LSU at “The Swamp” has been postponed after the Gators saw a surge in positive COVID-19 tests this week, it was announced Wednesday.
The game has tentatively been rescheduled for the SEC’s built-in bye week on Dec. 12, which is the week before the SEC championship.
The SEC said on Twitter that the game was postponed after “positive tests & subsequent quarantine of individuals with the Florida FB program.”
Florida has 18 positives among scholarship players and three among walk-ons, athletic director Scott Stricklin said today.
He said the players and staff members who tested positive are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
Stricklin said he did not have an exact number of players who are now under contact-trace quarantine, but when adding in those with the positive cases and non-COVID-related injured players, Florida had less than 50 scholarship players available.
Florida shut down its football program on Tuesday after a number of tests came back positive.
Stricklin said there is suspicion that the trip to play Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, this past weekend is at the root of the outbreak.
However, a couple of UF players said they had allergy-type symptoms before leaving for the game and didn’t report it to UF officials.
Stricklin said he learned early Monday that players were reporting symptoms, and the standard Sunday testing revealed multiple positives.
That is when Florida started doing daily testing, and the numbers have increased since then.
Stricklin said the team would continue doing daily testing until the spread is under control.