On Wednesday the 14th, during an interview, Nick Saban was called outside by Jeff Allen, the Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine. He was informed that he, and Athletic Director Nick Byrne, had tested positive for Covid-19. Saban and Byrne had to leave campus and self quarantine at home as daily tests would be administered and their health monitored. Saban has been getting tested every day on his own. Alabama has athletes and coaches tested 3 times a week. If Saban tests negative 3 consecutive times he will be allowed back on the sidelines. Timing of these tests is critical so that Saban can get the results. Tests must be at least 24 hours apart per SEC regulations. Test results for Thursday have not yet been made public so we don’t know if Coach Saban has gotten them or not.
So who will prowl the sidelines for Crimson Tide?? Offensive Coordinator, Steve Sakisian has been running practice and will likely coach in the event Saban is still sidelined. Per NCAA regulations, Saban cannot communicate with the team or coaching staff from 90 minutes before the game until after the final whistle. NCAA Ruke 1-4-11-b “allows only voice communications between the press box and the team area, therefore in (a) the coach could not call into the press box or the sideline for anything related to coaching purposes,” according to an interpretation of the rules written for this season by Steve Shaw, the national coordinator of football officials. On a side note Shaw is an Alabama Alum. So it seems the NCAA is still in the 19th century with a rule like this. At least the 20th century had video and cellular technologies.
Sarkisian is a former head coach at the Division 1 level, 5 years at the University of Washington compiling a record of 34 and 29 and 2+ years at USC (that is University of Souther California for the unitiated, John Roberts) with a 12-6 record. In 2016 Sarkisian started his first stint with Alabama as an Analyst. After that season he became the offensive coordinator for the Falcons but was let go after 2 seasons. He then returned to Alabama in January of 2019 as Offensive Coordinator.
So with Sarkisian in the coaches seat and the rest of the offensive coaches sliding around to cover the spots, how will the Crimson Tide do on Saturday night? If you look at Las Vegas, Alabama is favored by 1 point more than they were prior to the announcement. It seems bettors are thinking 1 of 2 things, 1) Saban will be back, or 2) the team will rally for their head coach. But could the 2nd be enough, in the event of Saban’s absence. Who would give “the look” (if you ever coached, you know what this is) to players and officials? With top coaches the look is usually worth 4-6 points. Who will put the fire in the players at halftime like Saban does? We will see Saturday night. There has been no announcement of any tests. I guess we have to wait until Saturday night.
In other SEC games, Saturday’s game of Vanderbilt vs. Missouri was postponed on Monday and on Wednesday the game if LSU vs. Florida was postponed. Both games will be played on Dec 12th.