On Saturday, the University of Georgia football team will come to Tuscaloosa to play the University of Alabama. Legendary Tide college football coach Nick Saban will not be on the sidelines.
The 69-year-old Saban has tested positive for the coronavirus, but is asymptomatic at this time.
“I feel fine, so I’m not really concerned that much about my health, but you never know,” Saban said in a news conference with reporters on Wednesday. “Look, I basically feel like when we’re in our own personal bubble here, everybody is in a much safer place. I think as soon as you travel you get exposed to a lot more things and a lot more people.”
Alabama was on the road last week for an away game.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne has also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Both Alabama and Georgia are 3-0 and this game, which originally was scheduled for September, was viewed as one of the games of the year since the schedule first came out.
The SEC announced on Wednesday that the Florida vs. LSU and Vanderbilt vs. Missouri games have both been postponed to Dec. 12 due to the coronavirus situations there, but at this point, the Georgia Alabama game is still a go even though Saban is having to work from home.
If Saban cannot coach remotely, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will take over as interim head coach.
Sarkisian previously served as the head coach at Washington and USC. He has a 46-35 record. Sarkisian was first hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2016. He left to accept a similar position with the Atlanta Falcons for two seasons before returning to Tuscaloosa last year.
“Obviously Sark has been a head coach before,” Saban said. “I’m not sure exactly how this is gonna play out in terms of when the game comes whether I can have communication with people or not. 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.”
In all, 29 games at the Football Bowl Subdivision level have been postponed or canceled thus far since August, including the Troy vs. South Alabama game.
“We’ve been diligent about mask-wearing and social distancing from the start,” Byrne said in a statement Wednesday, “and want to continue to encourage you all to take the necessary precautions to help stop the spread of this virus for yourself and those around you.”
Saban has been urging Alabamians to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and he repeated his call to action on Wednesday.
“I agree, Coach!” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said on Twitter in response. “We need to keep wearing masks, washing our hands and social distancing. Wishing you a speedy recovery!”
“I may bleed orange and blue, but this goes way beyond football,” said former Montgomery Quarterback Club President former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. “I call on the Auburn Nation to join me in prayer for Coach Saban and AD Greg Byrne’s health and speedy recovery.”
More test results of Tide players and coaches will be available today. The NCAA recommends coronavirus testing of players and staff three times a week, but out of an abundance of caution the University of Alabama had been testing daily.
The state remains under a statewide mask order.