The growing COVID-19 outbreak in the SEC reached Tuscaloosa and it hit the top of the pyramid.
Nick Saban, just weeks from his 69th birthday, tested positive for the coronavirus. Alabama also announced athletics director Greg Byrne also tested positive, the school announced. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian “will oversee operations” in Saban’s absence, he said in a statement.
“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19,” Saban said. “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. I informed our team of my positive test at 2 p.m. today on a Zoom call.”
Byrne also said he immediately left his office to isolate after getting his positive test. He also said he was not showing symptoms of the virus.
Alabama eam doctor Jimmy Robinson said Saban and Byrne were the only two who tested positive “at this point in time.”
The news comes just days before his No. 2 Crimson Tide is to play No. 3 Georgia in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The status of the 7 p.m. CT Saturday game is unknown as of Wednesday evening.
Saban’s diagnosis makes him the highest-profile COVID-19 case in the college football world and the state in general. Florida State coach Mike Norvell had to miss a game in September after testing positive.
From the beginning of the pandemic, Saban has been an advocate for respecting the virus and healthy living. He filmed a number of PSAs including one with the Big Al mascot on mask usage that went viral.
Saban has been careful with mask usage in public since the season began. While some SEC coaches have been lax with the face coverings during games, Saban’s consistently been masked up during Alabama’s first three games of the season.
The Wednesday evening news of Saban’s positive test had some foreshadowing. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin on Wednesday morning said there were positive cases in his locker room just days after playing Alabama in Oxford.
Two SEC games scheduled for the weekend have already been postponed after Vanderbilt and Florida had outbreaks that took them below the threshold of scholarship players required by the SEC to play a game.