Alabama football coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and he is self-isolating at home while continuing to oversee his team’s practices via Zoom.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive on Wednesday.
“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19,” Saban said in a statement. “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.”
The second-ranked Crimson Tide play host to No. 3 Georgia on Saturday.
Saban, who is working from his home, was upbeat as he addressed reporters on a Zoom call Wednesday evening, joking that “something must be bad wrong — as much as I look forward to these Wednesday press conferences — for me not to be there with you today.”
Saban, 68, said he was feeling fine before the positive test result, which he said surprised him.
“I feel fine, so I’m not really concerned that much about my health, but you never know,” Saban said. “Look, I basically feel like when we’re in our own personal bubble here, everybody is in a much safer place. I think as soon as you travel, you get exposed to a lot more things and a lot more people.”
Saban said he informed his players of his positive test in a Zoom call at 2 p.m. Wednesday. He said his message to players has been to assume that anyone they come into contact with might be infected and to be cautious.
Alabama plans to test everybody within the football program on Thursday. The program began daily testing for its players in September.
Saban said he was able to monitor practice on Wednesday via Zoom and could talk on the phone with a staff member if he saw anything that needed correction.
“I had the manager have a phone,” he said. “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. And we have this technology, so it’s really unique.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban explains how he received news of his positive COVID-19 test and is able to continue coaching his team from home.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who was the head coach at Washington from 2009 to 2013 and at Southern California in 2014 and 2015, has been put in charge of operations on the ground with Saban away. Saban said they haven’t yet decided how much autonomy Sarkisian has to make decisions.
Saban said he wondered whether he’d be able to have communication with his coaches during a game, adding, “We’ll have to research and sort of figure that one out.”
A copy of the 2020 NCAA Football Play Interpretations makes clear that no such communication would be allowed when a coach is away under quarantine. “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,” the ruling states.
Alabama team physicians Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allen said Saban and Byrne were the only two individuals who tested positive “at this point in time” and explained that the school would follow the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives.
“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive,” Byrne said in a statement. “Upon hearing the news, I immediately entered self-isolation and will remain at home and follow all guidelines. We’ve been diligent about mask-wearing and social distancing from the start and want to continue to encourage you all to take the necessary precautions to help stop the spread of this virus for yourself and those around you.”
CDC guidelines say those with positive tests must isolate for 10 days, and contact tracing requires a 14-day quarantine.
Saban is one of a handful of FBS head coaches to test positive for COVID-19. Arizona‘s Kevin Sumlin, Florida State‘s Mike Norvell, Kansas‘ Les Miles, Toledo‘s Jason Candle and Arkansas State‘s Blake Anderson also have announced positive tests.
ESPN’s Alex Scarborough and Chris Low contributed to this report.