Alabama head coach Nick Saban, fresh off his COVID-19 scare punctuated by a national media onslaught, must have enjoyed Saturday night.
His No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide punched out SEC rival Georgia, which was No. 3, with a decisive second half, winning 41-24 in a key battle for national championship positioning. And, he doesn’t have the virus.
The Saban COVID-19 story was all over the airwaves and news sites, given the potential for one of the nation’s top college coaches to miss considerable time. The media feeding frenzy was in full-go mode through Saturday afternoon, when the “all-clear” news arrived.
The 69-year-old Saban was picked up at his home early Saturday afternoon and joined the team for meetings and preparation. He said it was an emotional return.
“I think I gained a lot of respect thinking I had this,” he said after the game. “When they tell you you tested positive, that wasn’t a good feeling.”
The players were happy to have the coach back.
“It was very crazy,’’ Alabama quarterback Mac Jones said. “We were in our little quarterback meeting and he just showed up.’’
According to SEC protocols, three negative tests taken 24 hours apart indicate that the initial positive test was a false-positive, thereby indicating that he was safe to attend the game.
Saban, according to a source in an ESPN report, felt the initial test was a false positive because he never had any symptoms or experienced a fever.
“He didn’t even have a sniffle,” the source said.
Saban missed a good deal of in-person game preparation late this week but did handle meetings via Zoom.
According to a USA Today report earlier this week, Saban is college football’s highest-paid coach, with a salary of $9.3 million. He made $8.7 million in compensation in 2019.