Alabama’s Nick Saban tests positive for coronavirus, will not coach in Iron Bowl

Alabama coach Nick Saban walks onto the field wearing a mask.
Alabama coach Nick Saban has tested positive again for the coronavirus. This time, it’s not a false positive.
(Vasha Hunt / Associated Press)

Coach Nick Saban of No. 1 Alabama has tested positive for the coronavirus just days before the Iron Bowl with No. 22 Auburn.

Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and head trainer Jeff Allen said in a joint statement that the positive test came Wednesday morning.

“He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive,” the statement said. “He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”


The Crimson Tide is set to face its biggest rival Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium without the 69-year-old, six-time national champion coach. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, a former head coach at USC and Washington, will oversee preparations within the football building and oversee the team on game day.

Saban said he had a runny nose but no major symptoms. He previously received a false positive ahead of the team’s Oct. 17 game with Georgia but, that time, didn’t have any symptoms.

He was cleared to coach after subsequent tests leading up to the game came back negative.

This time appears different.

Why were nine UCLA players held out of Saturday’s game against Oregon when two tested positive for coronavirus? It’s a system built on honesty.

“It was a PCR test, which was different than the false positive that I had before,” Saban said on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “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. I’m the only person in the whole organization who tested positive this round.”

Saban will still run meetings and monitor practice via Zoom at home like he did ahead of the Georgia game. Sarkisian will still call offensive plays during the game, but Saban said other details were still to be ironed out.

“Last time I did this for three days [and] I absolutely did everything from home that I did in the office,” Saban said. “I just did it on Zoom.”

Saban said he had no idea how he got the virus, and it wasn’t immediately clear if anybody else within the program would be affected because of close contact. Saban believes that’s unlikely “based on how we manage things internally in the building.”

“I’m around nobody. I mean, I go home and I go to the office,” Saban said. “I have no idea. Now, there are some people in and out of our house on occasion, but I have no idea how this happened. We really practice social tracing, social distancing, all the things that we need to do to be safe.

“We’re always six feet apart in meetings. We have staff meetings in large rooms. Everyone is required and we all wear masks. Players all wear masks in meetings.”

Elsewhere, No. 7 Cincinnati’s game at Temple this weekend was canceled because both teams were dealing with COVID-19 issues.

The American Athletic Conference said the game scheduled for Saturday could not be made up on Dec. 5, even though both teams have an open date, because the league’s protocols “would not allow for a sufficient number of players to be available for competition on that day.”

The unbeaten and conference-leading Bearcats’ next game is scheduled for Dec. 12 at No. 24 Tulsa, which had its game scheduled for Saturday against Houston postponed because the Cougars were hit by the virus.