News and Commentary

Nick Saban On College Football: ‘Players Are A Lot Safer With Us Than They Are Running Around At Home’
FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 9: Head Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide yells at his players during the second half of a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Starkville, Mississippi. The Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 38-7. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban said that his players are safer playing football than spending their time at home and in their communities.

The head football coach said that the conversation, if one is to be had, should be about colleges reopening for the entire student body and not focused on sports. The athletic programs of college sports are capable of monitoring players and containing outbreaks of the coronavirus among players, if someone should get infected.

Players are much more likely to contract and spread the disease back home in their communities, Saban told ESPN on Monday.

“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban said. “I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”

“It’s going to be a challenge when the other students get on campus, and I get that,” Saban said. “But we really don’t know what that entails until it happens. It’s a big reason we pushed the season back [in the SEC], to assess that, which is the prudent way to do it.”

Saban said the coaching and training staff regularly monitor players for symptoms and signs of the coronavirus and has each player tested for the disease each week. He also brings in epidemiologists to update players on the disease every two weeks.

“It’s more important than ever to engage your players, and if you’re not, then you’re not doing your job as a coach,” Saban said.

“We also test anybody that has symptoms and have an open testing site where they can go and get tested as many times as they want or anytime they feel like they need to,” Saban continued. “But our guys aren’t going to catch [the virus] on the football field. They’re going to catch it on campus. The argument then should probably be, ‘We shouldn’t be having school.’ That’s the argument. Why is it, ‘We shouldn’t be playing football?’ Why has that become the argument?”

The Big Ten Conference announced on Tuesday that it would cancel its schedule for the fall and hope to relaunch in the spring of 2021. Coaches and players have publicly advocated for fall football, including a handful of coaches in the Big Ten such as Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. Their push was unsuccessful, however.

The campaign has continued across conferences and teams, including from the starting quarterback at Clemson, Trevor Lawrence.

“Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football. Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line,” Lawrence said on Sunday. “Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.”

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