Saban on COVID-19 coaching restrictions: 'There ought to be a better way'
After testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Nick Saban wasn’t ready to concede that his coaching duties might be taken away from him during No. 2 Alabama’s matchup against No. 3 Georgia this weekend.
"I'm not sure exactly how this is going to play out in terms of when the game comes, whether I can have communication with people or not,” Saban told reporters through a Zoom call. “We'll have to research and sort of figure that one out.”
It turns out, the research didn’t yield favorable results for the head coach.
According to NCAA rule 1-4-11-b, coaches in quarantine are prohibited from communicating “anything related to coaching purposes” from a location other than the press box, meaning Saban could not video conference from his house as he has done in practice the past two days.
“Rule 1-4-11-b is very specific and 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,” reads the interpretation written by Steve Shaw, the national coordinator of football officials.
After learning of that news Thursday, Saban responded to the restriction during his weekly radio show later that evening.
“If you’re the head coach, there ought to be a better way to do it,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what that is, but there should be a better way to do that. You ought to be able to have some communication with the sidelines just like I have communication with somebody on the field during practice.
“I can’t directly talk to a player, but I can say, ‘Tell 22 that he was supposed to reroute the guy,' or whatever. You can’t have any of that, and that doesn’t seem quite right.”
When asked why the rules against technology during games could not be changed due to the difficulties of the pandemic, Saban stated that “there are smarter people than me in positions to make those, sort of, determinations,” while making it clear that he wasn’t trying to be critical of anyone.
With Saban set to miss the game, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will take on the head coach’s duties on the field while still calling the offense. Sarkisian has previous experience as a head coach at Southern California (2014-15) and Washington (2009-13).
“I think philosophically we’re very close in terms of how we think about those situations,” Saban said. “He’s a very bright guy. All the time he was a head coach, he was a play-caller. So it won’t affect him from that standpoint. It won’t take away from his play-calling ability.”