Alabama’s Nick Saban tests negative for COVID-19, is cleared to coach against Georgia on Saturday

After testing positive earlier this week for COVID-19, Alabama coach Nick Saban has been cleared to resume normal activities and will be on the sideline when the No. 2 Crimson Tide play No. 3 Georgia, the university said Saturday.

“Upon evaluation today, Coach Saban remains completely asymptomatic," Alabama team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson said in a statement. "To address the potential for a false positive, the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol allows for follow-up testing to clear the individual’s return to activity. That protocol requires three negative PCR tests 24 hours apart.

"Because Coach Saban remained asymptomatic, he received PCR testing at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and today through the SEC appointed lab. Each of those tests were negative and were reported via the SEC’s third-party testing provider to the conference office in Birmingham. Those three negative tests satisfied the SEC protocol for a false positive. Out of an abundance of caution, two additional PCR tests were administered at the same time on Thursday and Friday and were tested by a separate lab. Those tests were also negative.

Nick Saban was cleared to coach vs. No. 3 Georgia on Saturday. (Photo: Kent Gidley, USA TODAY Sports)

"Due to the fact that Coach Saban has remained completely symptom-free and had five negative PCR tests, split between two separate labs, the initial test from Wednesday is considered a false positive under the SEC protocols. Again, that initial positive result came from an outside lab we’ve used to supplement the SEC mandated testing. We have been in constant communication with the conference office throughout this process to ensure compliance with all applicable protocols. In accordance with the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol and with the approval of The University of Alabama System Health and Safety Task Force, Coach Saban is medically cleared to safely return to activity effective immediately.”

Saban had been asymptomatic since testing positive Wednesday, leaving open the possibility that he could be given the green light to return before Saturday night, according to the testing protocols outlined by the SEC's Medical Guidance Task Force.

Those guidelines call for three tests in the wake of an initial positive: one less than 24 hours later and an additional pair at least 24 hours apart.

Alabama announced Friday that Saban was tested again Thursday by the SEC's appointed lab and was negative. The school also confirmed that Wednesday's positive test was performed by an outside lab.

He was cleared following negative results on Friday and Saturday. Per the conference protocols, the initial test is considered a false positive and Saban can resume normal activities.

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Saban had been in isolation and working remotely to help Alabama prepare for Georgia, in a game projected to have a significant impact on the College Football Playoff.

The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are the only two unbeaten teams in the SEC and two of only six Power Five teams without a loss. Alabama has won all five meetings in the series since 2008, including an overtime win in early 2018 to claim the program’s fifth national championship under Saban.

Follow USA TODAY Sports colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg

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