When those coaches face their old boss, the mentor has always gotten the best of them.
With Alabama’s 63-48 win over Ole Miss last Saturday, Saban improved to 21-0 all-time against his former assistant coaches. He’s already 2-0 this season with wins over Texas A&M (Jimbo Fisher) and Ole Miss (Lane Kiffin).
Saban could make it 22-0 this weekend with a win over Georgia, who is coached by Kirby Smart, a former assistant at Alabama.
The Georgia Bulldogs (3-0), ranked No. 3 in just about every major national poll, travels to face the No. 2 Crimson Tide (3-0). They are the only remaining undefeated teams in the Southeastern Conference, and this weekend’s winner puts themselves in the driver’s seat toward playing for a conference title in two months.
Then there is COVID-19, which Saban tested positive for on Wednesday. Though he has been asymptomatic, he still must follow certain SEC protocols, which means he likely will not be able to coach on the sidelines or at the stadium.
There’s also an NCAA rule that prohibits coaches from not being able to coach while not at the stadium. That means, in essence, that with all the technology in the world, Saban can’t coach the team from his couch or home office this Saturday night.
Steve Shaw, the national coordinator of football officials, read a rules interpretation that states a coach cannot coach remotely on game day. They must be with the team on the field, or in the press box stadium.
“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,” Shaw said on AL.com.
Shaw went on to say that game officials take over communications an hour and half before kickoff.
“This prohibition would begin at 90 minutes before the scheduled kickoff when the officiating crew assumes jurisdiction of the game and would include the time between periods until the end of the game when the Referee declares the score final,” Shaw continued.
Georgia defeated Tennessee, 44-21, last Saturday. The Volunteers led, 21-17, at halftime, but the Bulldogs held Tennessee scoreless in the second half while scoring 27 points.
Alabama comes into the Saturday’s game after a shootout at Ole Miss. Saban is typically in charge of the Crimson Tide defense, but it looked leaky last weekend.
With Saban sidelined, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be in charge of the team’s head coaching duties in the interim.
Now, a game that looked like “advantage Alabama” will have the feel of a toss-up when these two teams meet Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
The big question now is, if Georgia goes into Alabama and upsets the Crimson Tide, will there be an asterisk next to Saban’s record against former assistants?
Before it can be answered, the game must go on without Saban at the stadium.
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