Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, which made it unlikely for him to be on the sideline when the second-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 3 Georgia tee it up on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Things have changed quite a bit over the last two days, however.
According to ESPN's Tom Rinaldi on "College GameDay", Saban tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday, marking his second straight negative test. That increases the likelihood that Saban initially received a false positive. Saban has been asymptomatic since learning of his positive result. Now he awaits the results of one final test on Saturday to determine whether he can coach from the sidelines.
"He's one more negative test result from being able to re-join his team," Rinaldi said, per 247Sports. "Coach Saban has already been tested today, following a typical timeline. If that comes back negative again, expect him to rejoin the team. This is not Alabama protocol. This is conference-protocol."
Alabama Director of Sports Medicine Jeff Allen released a statement on Friday suggesting that Saban could be on the sideline on Saturday night given he has since tested negative for the virus twice.
"Coach Saban was evaluated again today by Dr. [Jimmy] Robinson," the statement read. "He continues to be asymptomatic and without fever. We are continuing to follow the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives. A PCR test was repeated Thursday by the SEC-appointed lab and was negative. For clarification, the initial positive result came from an outside lab we've used to supplement the SEC mandated testing. He will continue to remain in isolation and receive daily PCR tests. Should he have three negative PCR tests through the SEC-appointed lab, each 24 hours apart, the initial test would be considered a false positive pursuant to SEC protocols and he would be allowed to return."
Assuming Saban tests negative on Saturday before 8 p.m., he will be cleared to be on the sideline instead of the couch during the biggest game of the 2020 season.
If Saban's final test does come back positive, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will take over as the interim head coach of the Crimson Tide. Sarkisian was the head coach at Washington (2009-13) and USC (2014-15). Saban has confidence that he can handle the role.
"Obviously, Sark's been a head coach before, and I'm not sure exactly how this is going to play out in terms of when the game comes, whether I can have communication with people or not," Saban said on Wednesday. "We'll have to research and sort of figure that one out. But we did have a plan for each coach on the staff as to what might happen. We've just got to go from there. Just like if we lose a player we have to do the same thing."
The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs will tee it up on Saturday at 8 p.m. on the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.