Nick Saban clears SEC protocol, will coach against Georgia after negative COVID-19 tests

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

TUSCALOOSA — Nick Saban will coach against Georgia after testing negative three times for COVID-19, the final hurdle required by SEC protocol coming from his test Saturday morning.

Alabama's head football coach tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday and has had negative results in tests each day since. He and his physicians have said that he is asymptomatic.

The SEC protocol requires three negative tests from an asymptomatic individual, all separated by at least 24 hours, to clear the protocol and return to athletics activity immediately. Saban's positive test came Wednesday, giving him the window to test negative on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to return in time to coach against Georgia.

“Upon evaluation today, Coach Saban remains completely asymptomatic," UA team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson said in a statement. "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.”

UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne also tested positive Wednesday, the same time Saban did. There has been no update from UA on his condition.

"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," a statement from the SEC said.

“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.

Saban appeared on College Gameday Saturday morning to discuss his status. Saban pointed to tests in the last two days, all negative, as a reason to trust his negative tests the last two days and feel confident in returning to the team, if his Saturday test turned out negative.

"I have to trust in the doctors and medical protocols that make this safe for all of us," Saban said. "This experience has certainly made me respect what we all have to do: wear masks and wash our hands."