Will Nick Saban be able to coach remotely when Alabama football plays Georgia?

Cecil Hurt

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who received two positive results from two different testing procedures Wednesday, will likely remain isolated for Saturday night’s game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia.

NCAA rule 1-4-11-b prohibits coaches in quarantine from communicating “anything related to coaching purposes” from any location other than the press box. The interpretation of the rule was written by Steve Shaw, formerly the SEC’s head of officiating and now the national coordinator of football officials. 

“Rule 1-4-11-b is very specific and allows only voice communications between the press box and the team area, therefore in (a) the coach could not call into the press box or the sideline for anything related to coaching purposes,” the NCAA rules interpretation reads.

Two possibilities that might allow Saban to coach in some capacity seem remote. The SEC rule allows a player or staff member to leave quarantine after three consecutive negative tests. Saban, as noted, received two positive tests Wednesday, reducing the likelihood of a false positive.

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban coaches with his mask on during Alabama's game with Texas A&M Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Also, Rule 1-4-11-b does allow communication “from the press box.” Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze coached from a hospital bed in the press box after back surgery last season but was not in a quarantine or at risk of contagion. Saban said on his Wednesday night Zoom call that Alabama was “looking into” options, but maintaining the necessary isolation at the stadium may not prove possible.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will serve as interim head coach if Saban is unavailable  

Saban is not the first college coach to face this situation in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Florida State coach Mike Norvell missed his team’s game with Miami last month after a positive test. Kansas coach Les Miles is also currently in quarantine, although KU and the Big 12 have announced no final decision on whether Miles will travel with the Jayhawks on Saturday.

If Saban is absent, Alabama could promote one of its analysts to an on-the-field role. When UA defensive line coach Charles Kelley missed the Crimson Tide’s trip to Missouri for reasons not disclosed by UA, analyst Mike Stoops made the trip instead.

Saban is scheduled to appear on his weekly radio show on Thursday night. All his radio appearances this fall have been done remotely.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt