Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, October 14 — three days before his Alabama Crimson Tide were scheduled to play against the Georgia Bulldogs.
The famed head coach — who was asymptomatic but remained in isolation — returned two consecutive negative tests in the days following his positive result.
According to The New York Times, the university commissioned a private jet to fly a third sample to a lab across the state, enabling Saban to rejoin his team ahead of Saturday's game.
Nick Saban's journey from returning a positive COVID-19 test to returning to the sidelines at Bryant-Denny Stadium in three days was something of a miracle for Alabama Crimson Tide die-hards.
But for many others, "it's a reminder of the stark disparity between the haves and have-nots," Brown University School of Public Health Dr. Ashish Jha told The New York Times.
Thanks to a newly-instituted Southeastern Conference policy that allows asymptomatic individuals to "contest" their positive COVID-19 result via a series of additional tests, the esteemed head coach was able to evade an elongated isolation period and avoid missing any games with the undefeated Crimson Tide. But the elaborate response that enabled Saban to return to the helm for Alabama quickly came at a hefty cost.
The university commissioned a private jet to fly Saban's snot to a laboratory across the state.
The 68-year-old had returned two negative PCR tests in the 48 hours following his initial coronavirus diagnosis, but SEC protocols required that Saban return one more negative test before rejoining his squad. On game day morning, the six-time national champion completed a final dreaded nasal swab hoping that he'd be cleared once and for all.
Then, using the Crimson Tide Foundation's private plane, the program shipped Saban's sample to a lab in Mobile, Alabama. Though Mobile is just a 3.5-hour drive south of the university's campus in Tuscaloosa, university decision-makers approved the decision to spend considerable funds on the jet to save precious time that Saban could use preparing his team instead of continuing his self-quarantine.
The investment paid off, at least according to the Alabama faithful. The Saban-led Crimson Tide enjoyed a decisive 41-24 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday — just hours after that third test came back negative for the most recognizable name in college football.
Still, the ethics of burning through various resources — PCR testing materials, jet fuel, and lab time — just to get a famous coach back on the gridiron with expediency remains questionable at best. With cases surging across the United States — Alabama included — and many communities struggling to provide enough tests for their populations, Saban's speedy and expensive turnaround exemplifies a jarring truth; money and status discriminate even if deadly viruses do not.
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