Alabama football coach Nick Saban, athletic director Greg Byrne test positive for COVID-19

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 10/14/20

Arguably the biggest name in college football, if not in all of collegiate athletics, has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, who has guided teams to national titles on six occasions, confirmed on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive. 

In a statement shared by Mark Schlabach of ESPN, Saban said: 

“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19. I immediately left work and isolated at home. At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID, and I have taken another PCR test to confirm my diagnosis.”

No. 2 Alabama (3-0) is preparing to host the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) on Saturday evening in what is, to date, the most anticipated game of the college football campaign. Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will lead in-person practice sessions as Saban works from home.

Byrne added: 

“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive. Upon hearing the news, I immediately entered self-isolation and will remain at home and follow all guidelines. We’ve been diligent about mask wearing and social distancing from the start and want to continue to encourage you all to take the necessary precautions to help stop the spread of this virus for yourself and those around you.”

Saban joins Kansas’ Les MilesArizona’s Kevin SumlinFlorida State’s Mike NorvellArkansas State’s Blake Anderson and Toldeo’s Jason Candle on the growing list of FBS coaches who have tested positive for the virus from the early days of the pandemic through and beyond the start of the football season. 

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How Alabama could dramatically affect College Football Playoff future

According to a cabal of human beings whose jobs are to gather in a room and subjectively rank college football teams, Alabama is fifth-best in the country. Normally this would be a good thing. Normally this would put the Crimson Tide in optimal position to qualify for the College Football Playoff for the sixth straight season, meaning it would continue its streak as the only team to make the Playoff in every year of its existence. 

But something happened Saturday to put that in jeopardy: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down with a gruesome and disheartening hip injury that ended his season. This means the Crimson Tide now is relying on a guy named Mac to win its final two games. It also means that Alabama (9-1), according to the conventional wisdom, may have only a slim chance of making the Playoff if everything plays out as expected these next few weeks. 

I do not expect you to feel much sympathy for Alabama, even if you are a Tide fan. This is a team that has experienced more prosperity over the past decade than pretty much any other program in the 150-year history of college football. If the Tide doesn’t make the Playoff, it will not tarnish Nick Saban’s legacy as (probably) the greatest coach in the sport, and it will likely not have any long-term effect on Alabama’s success. 

But it very well could impact the future of the Playoff itself.  

Let’s presume Alabama wins out and beats Auburn soundly to finish 11-1. If the people in that room decide that Alabama is not Playoff-worthy, it will spark complaints that one of the four most purely talented teams in the country is being left out, which could lead to a conversation about whether the Playoff should be expanded. And if the people in that room decide Alabama is one of the four best teams … then it could lead us straight to that same conversation. 

Listen, we knew this was coming from the moment the Playoff was announced. There are five major conferences, and there are four Playoff spots. In some years as few as three conferences have been represented. But this year it feels like every conference has a legitimate contender. In addition to Ohio State and Penn State, Minnesota may be worthy of consideration in the Big Ten. The Pac-12 has Oregon and Utah, the Big 12 has Oklahoma and the ACC has Clemson. And the SEC? It has three teams: LSU, Georgia and Alabama. 

It seems likely that LSU and Georgia will sort themselves out in the SEC championship game. But Alabama? The Tide’s loss to LSU means it likely won’t play in that game. So a one-loss conference champion from the Pac-12 — or perhaps Oklahoma if it wins the Big 12 championship game — could eclipse the Tide in the final week of the season. 

This all goes back to that larger issue of how much a conference championship should be weighted over things like the ever-elusive “eye test.” In these first five years of the Playoff, it felt like it hasn’t mattered much at all, and a lot of that has had to do with Alabama’s perceived dominance. It gets even more interesting if Alabama looks great these next couple of weeks, even without Tua, because then we find ourselves at a tipping point. 

Would the committee really take this Alabama team over a clear-cut conference champion? Would Alabama be left out in favor of a conference champion that doesn’t have the same level of overarching talent? 

I don’t know the answer to that. For the first time since the Playoff began, I’m not entirely sure how this might shake out. And I honestly don’t know what the future of the Playoff would look like or if it should be expanded to six or eight teams. But I am hopeful that this year’s denouement will spur the conversation that many of us are at least hoping to have regarding the long-term future: Is a four-team Playoff as good as it gets?

By: Michael Weinreb

Saban Flips Out On Reporters

Written by ESPN News Staff at

Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t a fan of preseason predictions, especially concerning his players, as evidenced by his rant Wednesday when asked about redshirt sophomore linebacker Christian Miller.

With the Tide’s opener against the Florida State Seminoles looming on Sept. 2, Saban was asked about how Miller was faring in practice. And that was all the opening that Saban needed to start venting.

“Oh, I don’t know. You guys make all these predictions about everything, about guys who are going to be great players, that have been here for two years. Who’s gonna win all the games? I don’t even know why we play,” Saban told reporters. “Why do we even play? Why do we have practice? Why do we compete? Why do we coach guys? How they need to improve. I mean, you guys got all the answers to how guys are gonna be, what they’re gonna do.

“Sometimes I wonder … why do we play? Why do we even have practice? Because you guys have got all these conclusions already drawn about who’s what, how good they are, what they can do. So why would you ask me? That’s what’s puzzling to me. Why would you ask me? I read stuff all the time. Like, ‘Oh, that’s nice to know. Where’d that come from?’ And then you ask me?”

Saban then cracked a smile and chuckled as he answered the question amid laughs from the media gathering.

“But Christian Miller has done a nice job. He’s had a really good camp. He’s doing a good job. He had a lot of production points in the scrimmage, so we’re really happy with the progress.”

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Terry Bradshaw Does Not Like Nick Saban

Written by Rob Goldberg at Bleacher

Terry Bradshaw is not a fan of Nick Saban’s new salary at Alabama.

In an interview on the Paul Finebaum Show, the Fox analyst compared the latest deal to the full budget of Louisiana Tech and called the salary “shameful,” via Jesse Kramer of The Comeback.

Saban is set to make $11.25 million this season as part of a three-year contract extension.

There are various reason to argue against the lofty salary, including whether that money should go to the players or to the school. However, Bradshaw provided a different angle to dislike Saban.

“If he has the personality of Steve Spurrier, then I would like him,” Bradshaw explained. “Spurrier, now you’re talking about a great coach. That’s a great coach, Steve Spurrier, not Saban. Saban hates people. The man doesn’t even like people.”

Spurrier had a successful coaching career at Florida, South Carolina and Duke, winning 228 career games with one national championship in 1996. However, Saban has clearly proved himself as a more successful coach with five national championships, including four at Alabama.

Since his second year with the Crimson Tide, the 65-year-old has led his teams to 112 wins and just 13 losses.

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Nick Saban Got PAIIIID

Written by Monte Burke at

The University of Alabama has extended the contract of its head football coach, Nick Saban, by three years, until 2024, when he will be 72 years old. As part of that extension, Saban also received a raise. With a one-time bonus of $4 million, he will make $11 million in the coming football season, up from the $7 million he made in 2016. From 2017 until 2024, in total, Saban will receive $65.2 million in total compensation. (Michael Casagrande, Aaron Suttles and Marq Burnett were the first to report the signing of the new contract.)

Saban’s salary this coming season will be the largest ever paid to a college football coach. It is also higher than the salary of any current NFL head coach.

There will be some outrage about this contract. Nick Saban is, technically, a public employee. And the student-athletes he coaches are not paid to play football.

While there are certainly reasons to be troubled by Saban’s salary—and by the seemingly outsized and misplaced importance we put on college football—the bottom line is that he is paid what he is worth. And he is worth every penny of this contract, if not more.

Yes, Saban is a public employee, but only his base salary of around $250,000 is paid by the University of Alabama. The rest of the money, called a “talent fee,” comes from the Crimson Tide Foundation, a 501 C 3 nonprofit organization, which raises money through boosters and shoe and apparel contracts. And the fact that college football players are not paid, despite the huge amount of revenue they help generate, is unlikely to change anytime soon, despite the fact that is seems unfair.

The system in college football, for better or worse, is what it is. And under that system, no coach in college provides more bang for the buck than Saban.

It starts, of course, with the success he’s had on the field. He is the best college coach in the game today and, arguably, the best ever. Saban has won four national titles since he took over as the head coach at Alabama in 2007. (He won one other title while at LSU in 2003). His five national titles leave him just one behind the legendary former Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant.

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Alabama’s Offense Isn’t Going To Be All Ball Control This Year

Written by Alex Scarborough at ESPN

Be careful not to make any assumptions about Alabama’s offense now that Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian have departed.

If you’re determined to make an educated guess about its direction under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, don’t do it around Nick Saban.

The Crimson Tide’s head coach was in midseason form at the start of spring practice on Tuesday when he went on a rant following a reporter’s question about whether the hiring of Daboll signaled a shift in philosophy to a more “ball-control” offense. Saban repeatedly questioned the premise of the question, shot down the idea that Alabama lost to Clemson in the national championship game because of a 9-minute deficit in time of possession and, at one point, he even went on a tangent about a new NCAA rule he said will prohibit high school coaches from bringing players to summer camps and instead allow “some third party guy” to do it.

Saban’s hard left turn into recruiting aside, it was clear he didn’t appreciate even the notion that Alabama’s offense would change.

“I don’t know where you came up with, we’re going to ball control,” he said. “That’s not what we do. I mean, the New England Patriots threw the ball over 60 percent of the time, which was more than we threw it. So where does that assumption come from? Or do you do what everybody else in the media does and just create some s— and throw it on the wall and see what sticks, which is what I see happening everywhere?”

Mind you, this isn’t a new stance from Saban toward the media. Whether it was the transition from Jim McElwain to Doug Nussmeier or Nussmeier to Kiffin, Saban has never been particularly forthcoming when it comes to changes being made on offense. He repeatedly rebuked the idea that Kiffin brought that spread to Tuscaloosa (it was his idea, he’d say) and emphasized instead that the fundamentals of the offense were never altered, only certain formations and the overall tempo.

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Saban To Use Former Players To Prepare for Clemson

Written by Morgan Moriarty at SB

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is preparing his team for the College Football Playoff National Championship against No. 2 Clemson. A tool at his disposal is one that allows him to use some of his former Crimson Tide players on scout team to prepare for the upcoming opponent. This week, he told reporters that he will use former Bama players to simulate Deshaun Watson during practice.

Now, it’s unclear who he’ll utilize, but he does have a talented player already on his team who could help — his quarterback, Jalen Hurts. In fact, last year Hurts, who early enrolled at Alabama in January, was used on the scout team to prepare the defense for Watson. The Tide beat Clemson 45-40 in the 2016 National Championship.

But going back to Saban using his former players: he’s done this before this season. Former Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims was used to simulate Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight. For Alabama’s game against LSU in November, former Tide running back Trent Richardson and quarterback John Parker Wilson were brought in to simulate LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Danny Etling.

In all three of the aforementioned games, Alabama went 3-0. So you’re probably thinking: How is Alabama allowed to do this? As it turns out, it’s completely permitted under NCAA rules. Alabama is able to have non-students participate in practice thanks to an exception to the practice rules that the NCAA adopted in 2011. NCAA bylaw reads:

A former student at the certifying institution (e.g., former student-athlete) may participate in an organized practice session on an occasional basis, provided the institution does not publicize the participation of the former student at any time before the practice session.

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Saban Thinks Playoff Has Devalued The Bowl Games

Written by Nick Bromberg at Yahoo

Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks the College Football Playoff and the media’s attention towards it is to blame for why players are deciding to skip out on lower-tier bowl games.

Saban was asked Wednesday about the decisions of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey to not play in their teams’ bowl games to instead prepare for the NFL. The question led to this (misguided) answer, which we’ll print in full.

I will say this, I think when we created the playoff, which all of you wanted to do and all of you wanted to make it four teams. And now all of you want to make it eight teams and pretty soon all of you guys are going to want to make it 16 teams. And the only focus is on the playoff.

But when we all started this, however many years ago it was, I said that you’re going to diminish the importance of other bowl games in college football, alright? Which has happened. That has happened. All anyone talks about is the playoff. Alright, we have a bunch of other bowl games that people don’t think are all that important so if you don’t think it’s important, all of the sudden some players don’t think it’s important. So you can’t really blame the players. We created this, OK? We created this.

It used to be to go to the Rose Bowl — when you played in the Big Ten that was the ultimate of any experience that you could ever have. If you played in the SEC, going to the Sugar Bowl was that same thing. If you played in the Big 12, it was going to the Orange Bowl. So those things don’t exist anymore. We have a playoff, everyone’s interested in the playoff, no one is interested in anything else.

So now that that’s trickled down to the players, how can you blame the players for that? I can’t blame the players for that. I think what every player has to decided — and I would say every player — is I think every player probably benefits from playing really, really well. So I think when you play in big games and you play really, really well, I think that enhances your value as a player. That’s what I think. Now every player would have to make the decision between is that more important relative to protecting yourself. And I think that’s every player’s choice and I think that’s every player’s decision and I don’t know that there’s much more to say about it than that.

It’s not the first time Saban has talked about how the attention paid to the playoff has cost the other bowl games. In May of 2015 he said that the minimized interest in other bowl games compared to the playoff was what he “feared the most would happen.”

But it’s still an unfounded fear from our perspective.

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Best College Coaches For the NFL

Written by Daniel Jeremiah at

Change is inevitable in the coaching world. Every year, at least a few NFL teams decide to go in a different direction at the head-coaching position. We saw one change this week. The Rams relieved Jeff Fisher of his duties following an embarrassing home loss to the Falcons. There will surely be a handful of other teams that will join the Rams in the market for a new head coach following the conclusion of the 2016 campaign. When it comes to candidates, there aren’t many hot names currently coaching in the NFL. Therefore, I believe we could see NFL franchises target college coaches in this next hiring cycle.

The one college name that gets the most buzz is Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. However, the Wolverines head man has colorfully described why that won’t happen and where he believes those rumors originated. So, with Harbaugh out of the mix, which college coach is best suited to be successful at the next level? I reached out to five NFL executives to get their thoughts. Here are their responses.

Executive 1: Washington’s Chris Petersen
“Petersen would be a great fit for the NFL. He runs an NFL-style offense. He loves to use the tight ends. He knows how to put together a strong coaching staff and pro players would respect him.”

Executive 2: Alabama’s Nick Saban
“Saban wasn’t a big success with the Dolphins, but I think he would be outstanding if given another shot. He is the ultimate CEO of an organization. Alabama is a machine and Saban set the whole thing up.”

Executive 3: Petersen
“I don’t think Coach Pete (Chris Petersen) will ever do it, but he would be successful at the next level. He’s extremely detailed and organized. He’s a winner and he knows how to take a team to another level. Everyone in the coaching and scouting community has a very high opinion of him as both a person and football coach.”

Executive 4: Baylor’s Matt Rhule
“I’ve always been impressed with Ruhle when I went into Temple. He knows what he’s doing and he has built a very tough football team. He has a little NFL coaching experience and I think he will ultimately end up in the league. It’s not going to happen in the next couple years, but he’s one I have my eye on for the future.”

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SEC Football Preview for the 2016 Season

Written by Larry Sealy at Digital 

The SEC has dominated the college football landscape for the last decade and it appears the conference is set for another banner season, but it won’t be just Alabama battling for a spot in the NCAA Football Playoffs in 2016.

 Nick Saban has turned the Crimson Tide into a dynasty with his ability to recruit and get the most out of the talented youngsters that put on a uniform, but unlike the past five years and despite entering the year as the top-ranked program in the nation, other schools will have a big say in what happens before the year is over.

LSU has everything necessary to wrestle the West Division form ‘Bama. The Tigers have the best offensive player in the conference with running back Leonard Fournette and quarterback Brandon Harris now entering his third year as the starting signal caller. The ‘Bayou Bengals’ also have one of the best offensive lines in the country and some talented wide receivers that will take the pressure off the running game.

New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will bring a 3-4 look to the program, which should help with speedy linebackers able to make more big plays and allow the depth of this unit to shine. With 17 starters back for the 2016 season and a home game against Alabama, don’t count out the Tigers as they could be a dark horse for the upcoming football season.

While the West Division gets most of the attention, don’t look past the likes of Tennessee and Georgia from the east. The Volunteers have made great strides the past three years under head coach Butch Jones. With nine wins in 2015 and 17 starters returning for this season, the Vols’ are getting plenty of press, but until they win that one big game, all the headlines will remain in the west.

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