Updated with more information at 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2020.
Not even the most successful coach in college football is immune from contracting the coronavirus.
The University of Alabama announced Wednesday afternoon that Nick Saban, who has won five national championships with the Crimson Tide after earning one with LSU, tested positive for COVID-19 along with athletic director Greg Byrne. Saban held a Zoom call from his house Wednesday night and expressed his surprise by the result.
"I personally think I did a really good job of trying to manage my personal space," Saban said. "That's what I've informed my players to try and do, because you have to respect this disease and the spread of this disease."
Saban, who is asymptomatic, was informed after lunchtime Wednesday about his positive PCR test for COVID-19 and immediately headed home. The 68-year-old informed his players via Zoom before practice and then watched the practice via video, which included having a manager just a phone call away in case he wanted a play repeated.
After the workout, Saban addressed his players again via Zoom.
The No. 2 Crimson Tide are off to a 3-0 start with wins over Missouri, 38-19, Texas A&M, 52-24, and Ole Miss, 63-48, but have their stiffest test yet Saturday night with a visit from No. 3 Georgia, which is also 3-0. It will likely be the biggest regular-season game of this altered schedule amid this pandemic, but now the coronavirus has hijacked the anticipated contest's top storyline.
"It's our goal for the players to be at their best for the game, and we're going to continue to try and do this," Saban said. "We've had a lot of challenges this year, and our guys have shown great maturity in how they've handled all those challenges. I'm sure they'll handle this in a very positive way as well."
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has head-coaching experience at Washington and Southern California, is running operations at the athletic facility and the practice fields on an interim basis. Saban said that Sarkisian would remain in his play-calling role, and he is not sure what kind of in-game communication he will be allowed to have with his assistants.
Saban said it will be business as usual on weekdays due to Zoom capabilities, adding, "I didn't leave the country or anything. I'm just right down the street."
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said Wednesday that Rebels players are experiencing significant spikes in COVID-19 cases for the first time. Saban was asked whether last weekend's trip to Oxford has been followed by a spike on his roster, and he responded, "We haven't had any indication of that at all with any player."
Wednesday was by far the toughest day the Southeastern Conference has experienced since its 10-game format consisting solely of league contests started Sept. 26. The Florida-LSU game scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Gainesville had to be postponed to Dec. 12 due to a spike in cases for the Gators, which followed Monday's postponement of Vanderbilt's trip to Missouri.
"I hate it for anybody who has suffered through this," Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt said Wednesday night. "It's tough times, but one thing that I will say is that with the leadership of Greg Sankey and everybody in the SEC office, we've continued since March to find solutions and to give these student-athletes an opportunity to do something that they love to do and try to do in the safest way possible.
"Obviously it has been a tough day."
Pruitt's Volunteers are scheduled to host Alabama next week, so Saban could go consecutive weekends having to sit out games against former assistants. Pruitt said Tennessee has gone three straight weeks without a positive COVID-19 test.
As long as Saban remains asymptomatic, he will undergo daily PCR testing per league protocol.
"When we're in our own personal bubble here, I think everybody is at a much safer place," Saban said. "As soon as you travel, you get exposed to a lot more things and a lot more people. I wear a mask on the sidelines. I wear a mask all the time — in the hotel, on the bus, at the plane — all the time."