During his tenure at the university — whose fans spent the years before he arrived in 2007 longing for the dominant teams they had known under Bear Bryant, who died in 1983 — Saban has won five national championships.
Now, ahead of a game that will go far to determine whether Alabama reaches another College Football Playoff, Saban will be working from home. Steve Sarkisian, the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator, will take on a greater role in preparations for the game against Georgia.
Alabama also seemed to be harboring a sliver of hope on Wednesday that another test might show Saban’s initial result to be inaccurate — or that, somehow, Saban might be able to coach from afar on Saturday night.
“I’m not sure, exactly, how this is going to play out in terms of when the game comes, you know, whether I can have communication with people or not,” he said. “We’ll have to research and sort of figure that one out.”
In the interim, Saban pivoted to coaching practice by Zoom, and one of Alabama’s managers was tasked with holding a phone while Alabama worked out on Wednesday.
“If I wanted a play repeated, I said ‘I want that play repeated, so and so messed up,’” Saban said, wryly noting later that Alabama had run “a lot worse practices when I’m there.”
The pandemic has disrupted college football repeatedly as the sport plowed ahead this fall. So far, 29 games in the Football Bowl Subdivision, college football’s premier tier, have been postponed or rescheduled for reasons related to the virus. A handful of head coaches, including Kevin Sumlin of Arizona and Mike Norvell of Florida State, have tested positive, as have hundreds of players and staff members nationwide.