Nick Saban and AD Greg Byrne test positive for COVID-19

Alexander Plant | @aplant63, Sports Editor

COVID-19 has returned to the Alabama football program. Head coach Nick Saban and athletic director Greg Byrne tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Oct. 14. After the coaches communicated their positive test results earlier in the day, both Saban and Byrne announced that they had returned to their homes and are currently isolating. 

“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19,” Saban said in a statement. “I immediately left work and isolated at home.”

This news arrived shortly after Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels football team announced that the team was having its first COVID-19 outbreak of the season. Kiffin said in a press conference on Wednesday that a number of players will miss the team’s upcoming practices and game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Shortly after Saban and Kiffin shook hands after Saturday’s game, Saban could be seen via ESPN’s telecast taking his mask off while walking off the field, but still surrounded by players and staff. 

Although Byrne did not specify whether he had symptoms, Saban said in his statement that he was not experiencing any COVID-19-related symptoms and had already taken another test to confirm the initial positive result. 

The diagnoses also come nearly four months after an Alabama football player confirmed that several of his teammates had contracted COVID-19. Roughly a month after the players initially returned to campus, Saban announced in his August 17 press conference that only 1% of UA players had tested positive in the last couple of weeks. That number was down from the previously reported 2% from July 4 to Aug. 10, which Saban reported to ESPN

Byrne emphasized the importance of following the precautions to prevent the spread of the virus as he began his isolation. 

“We’ve been diligent about mask wearing and social distancing from the start 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,” Byrne said. 

Dr. Jimmy Robinson, UA endowed chair of sports medicine, and Dr. Jeff Allen, associate athletics director for sports medicine also released a statement about the coach and athletic director’s positive test results. 

“Early this afternoon, we received notification that Coach Saban and Greg Byrne tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement read. “Both immediately left the facility and went to their homes to self-isolate after receiving that information. At this point in time, the positive tests are limited to those two individuals. All individuals who are considered high risk contacts have been notified and will follow quarantine guidelines. We will follow the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives.”

Alabama will be up against arguably its toughest competition this Saturday versus the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. Saban broke the news earlier in the day to the players before releasing his statement. 

“I informed our team of my positive test at 2 p.m. today on a Zoom call and let them know offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will oversee preparations at the complex while I work from home,” Saban said.