Having Saban, who has won five national championships at Alabama, on the home sideline at Bryant-Denny Stadium will galvanize Crimson Tide fans, dishearten the Georgia faithful and almost certainly fuel new debate over college football’s response to the pandemic.
At least 32 Football Bowl Subdivision games, including two in the SEC, have been postponed or canceled since late August for virus-related reasons, and hundreds of players, coaches and staff members have tested positive over the last several months.
But the college football world was still stunned when Saban, 68, announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for the virus and entered isolation at his home in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The result came from what is considered the most reliable type of test for the virus, a polymerase chain reaction test, known as a P.C.R.
Saban, who was often seen wearing a mask during games, and university officials repeatedly asserted that he was not experiencing any symptoms, and he maintained an active schedule, coaching practice remotely and making his usual Thursday night appearance on a radio show.
On Friday afternoon, Alabama said that Saban had tested negative on Thursday during his first follow-up screening. The announcement raised hopes in Tuscaloosa — and worries in Athens, Ga., the home of the Bulldogs — that Saban would be able to work on Saturday.