The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY)

Tide’s Saban tests positive for virus, will miss Iron Bowl

- By John Zenor AP Sports Writer

The Iron Bowl will be without its biggest star.

No. 1 Alabama’s iconic coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 just before the game with No. 22 Auburn. Since he was experienci­ng mild symptoms, it appears there won’t be a false positive reprieve for Saban like there was last month before another huge game against Georgia.

Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and head trainer Jeff Allen said in a joint statement that the positive test came Wednesday.

“He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorize­d as a potential false positive,” the statement said. “He will follow all appropriat­e guidelines and isolate at home.”

The Crimson Tide is set to face its biggest rival Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium without the 69-year- old, six- time national champion coach. Offensive coordinato­r Steve Sarkisian, a former head coach at USC and Washington, will oversee preparatio­ns within the football building and lead the team on game day.

Saban said he has had a runny nose, but no major symptoms. When he tested positive ahead of the game with Georgia, he didn’t

have any symptoms. Saban ended up being cleared to coach in that game after subsequent tests leading up to the game came back negative.

This time appears different.“It was a PCR test which was different than the false positive that I had before,” Saban said on the Southeaste­rn Conference coaches teleconfer­ence. “I don’t really have any cardinal signs of the virus right now. I don’t have a fever, no loss of taste or smell, no fatigue, no muscle aches.

“I informed the teamthis morning at 10 on a zoom call. I’m the only person in the whole organizati­on who tested positive this round.”

Saban will still runmeeting­s and monitor practice via zoom at home like he did ahead of the Georgia game. Sarkisian will still call offensive plays during the game, but Saban said other details were still to be ironed out.

“Last time I did this for three days, I absolutely did everything from home that I did in the office,” Saban said. “I just did it on zoom.”

Saban said he has no idea how he got the virus, and it wasn’t immediatel­y clear if anybody else within the programwil­l be affectedbe­cause of close contact. Saban believes that’s unlikely “based on how we manage things internally in the building.”

“I’m around nobody. I mean, I go home and I go to the office,” Saban said. “I have no idea. Now, there are some people in and out of our house on occasion, but I have no idea howthishap­pened. We really practice social tracing, social distancing, all the things that we need to do to be safe.

“We’re always six feet apart in meetings. We have staff meetings in large rooms. Everyone is required and we all wear masks. Players all wear masks in meetings.”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn figures facing Alabama without Saban on the opposite sidelinewi­ll be the latest bizarre aspect to “a really weird year.”

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