Nick Saban cleared to coach Alabama on Saturday after third negative COVID-19 test

Chris Cwik
·4 min read

The Alabama Crimson Tide will have their head coach when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Nick Saban was cleared to return to the field after he tested negative for coronavirus for the third consecutive day, team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson announced.

In a statement, Robinson said Saban was “medically cleared to safely return to activity effective immediately” after Saban tested negative Saturday.

“Upon evaluation today, Coach Saban remains completely asymptomatic. To address the potential for a false positive, the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol allows for follow-up testing to clear the individual’s return to activity. That -protocol requires three negative PCR tests 24 hours apart.

Because Coach Saban remained asymptomatic, he received PCR testing at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and today through the SEC appointed lab. Each of those tests were negative and were reported via the SEC’s third-party testing provider to the conference office in Birmingham. Those three negative tests satisfied the SEC protocol for a false positive. Out of an abundance of caution, two additional PCR tests were administered at the same time on Thursday and Friday and were tested by a separate lab. Those tests were also negative.

Due to the fact that Coach Saban has remained completely symptom-free and had five negative PCR tests, split between two separate labs, the initial test from Wednesday is considered a false positive under the SEC protocols. Again, that initial positive result came from an outside lab we’ve used to supplement the SEC mandated testing. We have been in constant communication with the conference office throughout this process to ensure compliance with all applicable protocols. In accordance with the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol and with the approval of The University of Alabama System Health and Safety Task Force, Coach Saban is medically cleared to safely return to activity effective immediately.”

Under SEC policy, Saban’s positive test from Wednesday is considered a false positive.

The conference released a statement shortly after Alabama’s, confirming that Saban had cleared its COVID-19 protocols.

"Upon being notified by the University of Alabama of a potential positive COVID-19 test result involving Nick Saban, the SEC Office provided and reviewed with the university the COVID-19 management requirements established by the SEC's Medical Guidance Task Force and emphasized the need to comply with all local and state health policies.

"Consistent with the Conference's COVID-19 management requirements, PAE, the third-party provider secured by the SEC to standardize and provide testing for the 14 member institutions, has utilized the authorized laboratory in processing and reporting the three tests 24 hours apart as necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Task Force policy regarding the handling of asymptomatic PCR positive tests."

Nick Saban’s status was unclear after Wednesday’s positive test

Saban’s status for the contest was up in the air after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Saban, 68, said he was asymptomatic. Under SEC policy, Saban needed three consecutive negative tests in order to return to the team.

That scenario started to look like a possibility after Saban’s test on Thursday came back negative. Saban also tested negative on Friday’s test, meaning he would need a negative test Saturday to return to the field.

Prior to receiving the results of his third test, Saban appeared on ESPN’s “College Gameday.” He reiterated he was not dealing with any coronavirus symptoms.

Alabama has engaged in daily coronavirus testing, and has been able to turn around results in just a few hours by using an SEC-approved lab in Mobile, Alabama, according to ESPN. Saban reportedly took Friday’s test in the morning and learned of his negative result by Friday afternoon. That’s how Alabama was able to turn around Saban’s third test so quickly.

Nick Saban wanted to return to team Saturday

Even before being cleared, Saban expressed a desire to coach Alabama during Saturday’s game. On Friday, Saban said he didn’t understand why he couldn’t be in contact with the team if he was still quarantining due to Wednesday’s positive test. Under NCAA rules — which were in place before COVID-19 — the only communication that can occur is from the press box to the field. Saban would not have been allowed in the stadium if he was still positive for coronavirus.

Despite Wednesday’s positive test, there were rumblings that Saban would return in time for Saturday’s game. On Friday, ESPN’s Desmond Howard said he believed Saban would be on the field when Alabama took on Georgia.

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