Nick Saban is back in action! The Alabama Crimson Tide will face off with the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night in one of the season's most-anticipated games — days after concerns surfaced about Saban missing the game after he tested positive for COVID-19. However, the head coach was cleared to return on Saturday afternoon after receiving three negative tests.
According to ESPN, Saban learned that he had been cleared shortly before 12:30 p.m. ET. He immediately left his home and traveled to the team hotel with a state trooper by his side. He was able to join the team meetings around 1 p.m. ET. He will now lead the second-ranked Crimson Tide into battle against the No. 3 Bulldogs.
"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," team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson said. "... 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."
Robinson said in a statement that Saban had negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. These results meant that the original positive test was actually a false-positive. The school also had Saban take two extra tests on Thursday and Friday, sending them to a separate lab. These tests also came back negative and opened the door for the coach's return to the sideline.
Saban originally said in a statement Wednesday that he felt fine and wasn't experiencing symptoms. However, he still immediately headed home and went into isolation. A source close to Saban later told ESPN that the coach "didn't even have a sniffle" in reference to any symptoms.
While the coach waited for his negative tests, he continued to work from the comfort of his home. He conducted team and staff meetings using the popular Zoom video-chatting program. He also watched a live feed of practices, courtesy of a high-angle camera. If he wanted something changed, he would communicate that request to fellow coaches with a cell phone.
Athletic Director Greg Byrne, who also tested positive on Wednesday, said that he is feeling "pretty good" but will remain at home. He will not attend the matchup between Alabama and Georgia. He thanked fans for the prayers and well-wishes and asked them to continue wearing masks.