Nick Saban, the Alabama coach who tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesdaywas “medically cleared” to run the secondary Crimson Tide during Saturday night’s game against Georgia No. 3, the university said.
Under the Southeast Conference According to health protocols, Saban was allowed to leave isolation much earlier than expected because he was asymptomatic and tested negative for the virus three times by a conference-approved laboratory in the days after his first positive result. The series of negative tests led Alabama officials to conclude that Saban received a false positive result on Wednesday.
The presence on the sidelines of Bryant Denny Stadium of Saban, who has won five national championships in Alabama, will wow Crimson Tide fans, discourage believers in Georgia, and almost certainly start a new debate on the response of college football to stimulate the pandemic.
At least 32 Football Bowl Subdivision games, including two in the SEChave been postponed or canceled due to virus-related reasons since late August, and hundreds of players, coaches and staff have tested positive in the past few months.
But the world of college football was still stunned when 68-year-old Saban announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the virus and was isolated at his home in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He and university officials repeatedly claimed he had no symptoms and Saban maintained an active schedule, exercising remotely and appearing on a radio show Thursday night.
On Friday afternoon, Alabama said Saban tested negative at his first follow-up screening Thursday. The announcement raised hopes in Tuscaloosa – and Athens, Georgia, home of the Bulldogs – that Saban could go to work on Saturday.
Under a new SEC processA person who tests positive can have a second polymerase chain reaction test within 24 hours of this finding, which experts consider to be the gold standard for detecting the virus. If this test shows a negative result, the subject can add two more P.C.R. Tests, separated by 24 hours.
If these tests also produce negative results and the individual remains asymptomatic, the player, coach, or employee may be “released from isolation and medically released only to return to sports,” according to SEC guidelines.
The league’s presidents and chancellors approved the policy on October 8, and the conference included it in an update to its medical protocols on Monday, two days before Saban tested positive for the virus.
“I have to trust the doctors and medical professionals who are making these protocols safe for all of us,” said Saban, who for months publicly urged fans to follow the public health recommendations, said Saturday on ESPN while listening to the outcome of the Morning test.
He added, “Our players did a good job practicing social distancing and I think this experience has undoubtedly led me to have a lot of respect for what we should all be doing in terms of social distancing, that Wearing a mask and washing our hands remain separate, and we will continue to do so. “
Saturday’s game is one of the most anticipated games of the season and could go a long way in shaping the flight path of the race to the college football playoff. If Saban hadn’t tested negative three times in the past few days, he would not have been able to train in the stadium or from home during the game.
Saban has been 5-1 against Georgia since arriving in Alabama in 2007. Kirby Smart, who has worked for Saban for nine seasons in Alabama, is Georgia’s coach.