Alabama football head coach Nick Saban tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, and is monitoring his team’s practices via Zoom while self-isolating at home. The school’s athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive for the virus.
The 68-year-old veteran coach told reporters he was feeling fine before he tested positive for COVID-19. He also said he had taken another PCR test to “confirm my diagnosis.”
“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19. I immediately left work and isolated at home. At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID,” Saban said in a statement. “I feel fine, so I’m not really concerned that much about my health, but you never know.”
Although he was surprised by his diagnosis, he did admit that traveling for away games increases the risk of contracting the virus.
“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 added.
Wednesday afternoon, Saban informed players of his positive test and told them to assume that anyone they come into contact with might be infected. He encouraged them to be cautious and alert. Alabama plans on testing every member of the football program — both players and personnel — on Thursday.
Alabama Crimson Tide physicians Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allen said that Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne were the only two members of the team that tested positive. In a statement issued Wednesday, Byrne confirmed the news.
“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive. Upon hearing the news, I immediately entered self-isolation and will remain at home and follow all guidelines,” Byrne said.
“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,” he continued.
While Alabama’s game against No. 3 Georgia is still scheduled for Saturday, the matchup between Florida and LSU has been postponed after the Gators saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. The game is currently rescheduled for the SEC’s bye week on Dec. 12.
According to athletic director Scott Stricklin, Florida has 18 positive tests among scholarship players and three among walk-ons. The players are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
“It can sneak up on you in a hurry. The key thing is you’ve got to have the ability to push the brake when things start to occur like what we’re seeing right now. You’ve got to be willing to hit pause occasionally,” Stricklin said.
“The SEC schedule was set up with an event like this in mind. As much as we want to give our kids the opportunity to compete, we understand this isn’t a normal year. We’re going to have the ability to adapt to unusual circumstances such as this,” he added.