Alabama head football coach Nick Saban learned Wednesday morning that he tested positive for COVID-19. He is experiencing mild symptoms -- "maybe a runny nose" -- and will not be on the field to coach the No. 1 Crimson Tide on Saturday when they face No. 22 Auburn in the Iron Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS).
Saban indicated that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will take on an elevated role in the game as Saban is unlikely to be allowed contact with anyone on the team's sideline during the game.
This is the second time this season that Saban has tested positive for COVID-19. He previously tested positive before Alabama's game against Georgia last month but was asymptomatic. Saban was eventually cleared to coach the game against the Bulldogs after testing negative three times, indicating the initial test was a false positive.
This time around, a statement from Alabama's team doctors acknowledged that "this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive."
"We hated that this situation occurred, but as I've said many times before, you got to be able to deal with disruptions this year, and our players have been pretty mature about doing that," Saban said. "So we just want to carry on the best we can. They've got a very good team and they're playing really well right now, so it will be a challenge for us. We've just got to have great preparation and put our players in the best position to be successful."
Saban said he is the "only person in the whole organization" who tested positive on the program's latest round of testing, but it's unclear whether contact-tracing protocols could result in additional absences of players or staff in the wake of Saban's positive test.
"We really practice social tracing, social distancing, all the things that we need to do to be safe," Saban said. "We're all six feet apart in meetings. We have staff meetings in large rooms. Everyone is required and we all wear masks. The players all wear masks in meetings. So they will obviously do contact tracing, but that's up to the contact tracer as to whether he sees any issues. So I can't really say what the decision will be based on that. But based on how we manage things internally in the building, I can't see any issues with the coaches and players. But that's up to them."
Sarkisian will continue to call the plays for Alabama's offense while he takes on additional duties, Saban said. The 46-year-old former head coach at USC and Washington is the only member of Alabama's on-field staff with Division I head coaching experience aside from offensive line coach Kyle Flood, who went 27-24 leading Rutgers from 2012-15.
It was unclear where Saban may have contracted the coronavirus, but the positive result came from a PCR test, which he said was a different type of test than the apparent false-positive that he received last month.
"I'm around nobody," Saban said. "I go home and I go to the office. I have no idea. There are some people in and out of our house on occasion, but I have no idea how this happened. I really don't know."