Nick Saban has been cleared to coach No. 2 Alabama from the sideline during Saturday's primetime game against No. 3 Georgia. Saban tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday, marking the third straight formal negative test he's received since testing positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. He also tested negative on Thursday and Friday.
The three straight negative test results would indicate that the first test was a false positive. According to SEC protocols established before the season, Saban is clear to rejoin his team for the game in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide take on the Bulldogs in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week set for 8 p.m. ET. It's arguably the biggest matchup of the 2020 regular season in college football.
According to Alabama, Saban has actually tested negative for COVID-19 five times. The Crimson Tide conducted three PCR tests, all of which were negative, to comply with the official protocol required by the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, but they also put Saban through two additional PCR tests on Thursday and Friday by a separate lab just to be sure.
"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," said Alabama team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson in a statement. "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."
The SEC has confirmed that Saban has been cleared to be on the field Saturday per its COVID-19 policy.
Saban has been coaching practice while in isolation at his home over the last three days as Alabama prepares for its top-five showdown against Georgia. If he had been unable to coach Saturday, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would have been the acting coach for the Tide.
Though he initially tested positive Wednesday, Saban's return has been more and more likely over the past 24 hours. The Alabama coach has been asymptomatic since his positive diagnosis, which came from an outside lab that supplemented the SEC's mandatory testing. Saban has remained in his home while receiving daily PCR tests, which are more accurate than antigen tests.
Alabama will be at full strength Saturday with Saban in tow, but COVID-19 has disrupted SEC football this week. Two games -- Florida vs. LSU and Missouri vs. Vanderbilt -- have been postponed until Dec. 12 due to outbreaks, and the SEC had to shuffle its schedule over the next couple of weeks as a result.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also received a positive COVID-19 test on Wednesday. It is unknown whether Byrne has since received negative tests.