Nick Saban Tests Positive For COVID-19

Steve Sarkisian is going to lead the Crimson Tide vs. Georgia.

Jim Rome
October 15, 2020 - 10:58 am
Nick Saban

USA Today


The SEC has had itself a week. There was the announcement earlier in the week of positive Covid tests at Vanderbilt that forced the postponement of the Vanderbilt-Missouri game. And then there was the news from Lane Kiffin that his team is dealing with a bunch of positive tests.

And then there was the news that Florida had 21 positive tests among its players, forcing the postponement of the Florida-LSU game.

And yes, those tests at Florida and the postponement of the game were quite a plot twist given that Dan Mullen had been calling for fans to “Pack the Swamp” a few days earlier. He walked that back yesterday and walking that back was the right call. I get the enthusiasm and wanting to have your crowd behind you, but how about we don’t “pack” anything during a pandemic? So go ahead pack that and your shark into your pipe, and smoke that, Daniel.

As if the postponement of two SEC games wasn’t enough, then came the most shocking news of all. Alabama announced that Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne had tested positive for Covid.

Saban said in a statement: "I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19. 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."

At this point, no positive Covid should be considered a surprise. We’re talking about a virus and a pandemic. And if there is no bubble, there will be positive tests. And there will be cancellations.

But for some reason, Nick Saban’s positive test was a surprise. We have to be talking about the most protected guy in the state of Alabama, right? And for him to swab positive right now, days before facing Georgia Saturday night in the biggest game of the season, seems crazy.

But it’s not crazy. The crazy part was thinking that the SEC wasn’t going to have positive tests and postponed games. And that it wasn’t going to have coaches missing games – because Saban’s going to miss Saturday’s game.

When he met with the media, via Zoom, he said he’d been careful, but last week’s road game in Oxford, Mississippi might have been where he picked it up.

“As soon as you travel, you get exposed to a lot more things and a lot more people.” There’s something to that. Travel is when you break your routine, you break your personal bubble, and you’re in contact with more people. Florida’s spike in positive tests came after their trip to Texas A&M.

But Saban also tried to make the point even though this is coming just days before a massive game against one of his former assistants, not much has changed: “I can do absolutely everything here that I can do in the office. I’ll have the same exact routine. The first thing I do on Thursday morning is watch the defense practice with the defense. Then, we do two-minute and two-point plays. Then, I watch what we did against each other with the offense. Then, I watch the offensive practice. Then, I watch special teams. Then, I usually do a little write-up for two-minute and the two-point plays for the team. I’ll do all of those things exactly like I always do it.”

He even went into detail on how he was handling guys who made a mistake in practice.

“I’d watched practice today. I had a manager who had a phone 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. We have this technology. We’re gonna do the best we can to keep everything as normal as possible.”

Nick Saban watching practice via video conference and picking up the phone when he’s pissed about a bad rep is a pretty remarkable look. It’s not quite as insane as Hugh Freeze coaching from a hospital bed in a booth in the press box. but pretty good nonetheless.

I know everyone is kind of numb to this right now, but go back 12 months. Go back to last season. What if I told you that Nick Saban wouldn’t be on the sideline for the biggest game of the year? What if I told you that he was going to monitor practice via Zoom. Would you have even known what Zoom was?

What if I told you that for the biggest regular season game of the year, Saban was going to be at home and Steve Sarkisian was going to lead the Crimson Tide?

Saban also talked about the question of whether or not he’ll be able to be in communication with his coaches during the game. You know, can he have a Zoom window up or Gchat with them? Can he send them some DMs or patch into their headsets?

As he said: "We'll have to research and sort of figure that one out."

Got you covered, Nick. No you cannot. Let me read from the 2020 NCAA Football Play Interpretations: "Rule 1-4-11-b is very specific and allows only voice communication between the press box and the team area, therefore ... a coach could not call into the press box or sideline for anything related to coaching purposes.”

So it looks like Sark and company are on their own for the biggest game of the season. And Saban will be back home, in quarantine, shoveling  Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies into his pie hole.  Nervous pie holing…and yes, it’s hard to imagine Saban and the ad swab positive but none of the players or any of the other staffers did.  At least not yet.  So we still have a game.  A game that the greatest college coach has to watch from home because….well, because 2020. The whackest year of all time.