ATHENS, Ga. - University of Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former player and coach at the University of Georgia, will be the new head coach of the Bulldogs according to an announcement Sunday by UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity.
The decision was approved Sunday by the Executive Committee of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors.
Smart will be introduced at a press conference in Athens on Monday.
“It was critical to identify a person who would focus on a specific, defined process of developing championship football teams on and off the playing field,” said McGarity. “Someone who understands the true meaning of a student-athlete by actually experiencing it himself --- someone who competed at the highest levels on the playing field, was mentored by some of the very best in the game, and understood the specific ingredients necessary to excel at the highest levels of college athletics --- Kirby Smart fits that profile. I believe Kirby Smart is the perfect fit for the University of Georgia.”
“I interviewed Coach Smart on Sunday morning, and, following that interview, I accepted the athletic director’s recommendation to hire Kirby,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I am pleased to welcome Kirby, his wife, Mary Beth, and their three children back home to the University of Georgia, and I look forward to supporting him in his new role as our head football coach.”
“It's an honor and privilege to return home to the University of Georgia and my home state,” said Smart. “I'm deeply appreciative of the faith President Morehead, Greg McGarity, and the Athletic Board Executive Committee have demonstrated in asking me to lead one of the truly great college football programs in the country. I also want to thank Coach Saban. I have been fortunate to spend 11 seasons with him as my mentor and have learned a tremendous amount from him as a coach and teacher. I'm honored and excited for the opportunity at Georgia and promise high energy, effort every day, and hard work every minute on the part of all our coaches, staff and student-athletes."
One Bulldogs assistant coach told Channel 2’s Zach Klein Monday that the feeling among all the coaches was that Smart would replace Mark Richt, who stepped down Sunday after 15 years at UGA.
Smart has spent the last eight years next to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Smart has helped Alabama win three national championships and has strong ties to Georgia. He played defensive back for the Bulldogs in the mid-'90s and was an administrative assistant on the 1999 coaching staff and the running-back coach in 2005.
Smart will bring in his own staff, but is expected to retain defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Smart became the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the country in June when he received a $150,000-a-year raise to $1.5 million. He has three years left on a four-year deal that includes a buyout thought to be in the range of $500,000.
Richt told fans Monday he wants everyone to rally around the new coach when the announcement is made.