Nick Saban Cleared to Coach Alabama, Days After Testing Positive for Coronavirus

The coach can take the field for Saturday’s game against Georgia after a series of negative tests.


By Alan Blinder

Nick Saban, the Alabama coach who tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, has been “medically cleared” to direct the second-ranked Crimson Tide during Saturday night’s game against No. 3 Georgia, the university said.

Under the Southeastern Conference’s health protocols, Saban was allowed to exit isolation far earlier than first anticipated because he was asymptomatic and tested negative for the virus through a conference-sanctioned laboratory three times in the days following his initial positive result. The streak of negative tests led Alabama officials to conclude that Saban had received a false positive result on Wednesday.

The presence of Saban, who has won five national championships at Alabama, on the home sideline at Bryant-Denny Stadium will galvanize Crimson Tide fans, dishearten the Georgia faithful and almost certainly fuel new debate over college football’s response to the pandemic.

At least 32 Football Bowl Subdivision games, including two in the SEC, have been postponed or canceled since late August for virus-related reasons, and hundreds of players, coaches and staff members have tested positive over the last several months.

But the college football world was still stunned when Saban, 68, announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for the virus and entered isolation at his home in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He and university officials repeatedly asserted that he was not experiencing any symptoms, and Saban maintained an active schedule, coaching practice remotely and making his usual Thursday night appearance on a radio show.

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