For the second time in 2020, the college football world is hearing of a Nick Saban positive COVID-19 test.
This time, Saban is showing mild symptoms, according to a Wednesday morning release from Alabama. Earlier in the year, Saban returned quickly after showing no symptoms and testing negative three times. Wednesday’s news means Saban won’t coach in Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn. No official word has been given for who will fill in, but offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was supposed to fill the interim role when Saban tested positive earlier this season.
The news release from Alabama read: “This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19. He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Here’s what we know about how long Saban will be required to quarantine and when the Alabama head coach could potentially return to his team based on the SEC’s protocols.
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How long is Nick Saban out with COVID-19?
The SEC’s protocols mandate a 10-day isolation period for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms. The SEC considers Day 0 to start at the onset of symptoms, per its protocols. The SEC’s coaches are required to undergo testing three times weekly.
For isolation to end, “At least 24 hours must have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and symptom improvement (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, etc.) has occurred, in accordance with current CDC guidance.”
The 10-day isolation means that Saban for sure misses the Crimson Tide’s Saturday showdown with Auburn. What’s less clear is whether he’ll be available to coach the following Saturday against Arkansas on Dec. 5. It seems that the 10-day isolation window should be concluded by Dec. 5, but if Saban continues to show symptoms, that could affect his timeline to return. The SEC also requires its student-athletes to undergo heart testing before returning, but it’s not clear whether that applies to coaches.
The SEC championship game is scheduled for Dec. 12, which is well beyond Saban’s isolation timeframe as long as he makes a full recovery.
How did Nick Saban test positive for COVID-19 twice?
Saban’s first positive COVID-19 test result came on Oct. 14, shortly before Alabama played Georgia. Saban was asymptomatic at the time, and the SEC has protocols in place that allow for return within 72 hours if no symptoms are shown.
Three ensuing negative PCR tests for Saban meant that by the SEC’s standards, he registered the first positive test as a false positive. This new positive test, with symptoms, suggests that the earlier positive was indeed false — the CDC writes that cases of reinfection have occurred but are rare.
Nick Saban COVID-19 news
— Nov. 21: Alabama has at least eight players miss a game against Kentucky with no injury designation given, according to TideSports.
— Nov. 25: Alabama announces that Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 and is displaying mild symptoms. He’ll have to isolate for 10 days, ensuring an absence from Saturday, Nov. 28’s Iron Bowl game against Auburn.