Monday morning, it appeared Georgia may be close to landing its next defensive coordinator after making a lucrative offer to Alabama’s Kirby Smart, but by mid-afternoon, it was back to the drawing board for the Bulldogs.
Smart, the 2009 Broyles Award winner as the nation’s top assistant coach and a Georgia graduate, was reportedly offered in excess of $700,000 a year by Georgia to take over the position vacated by Willie Martinez, but in the end, he decided Alabama was home.
“I wouldn’t even have considered discussing the position with any other school, but when it is a place I’ve spent some of my best years and had some great memories, I thought it was something I should discuss with my family and figure out what was best,” Smart said. “After thinking about all the factors over the last couple days, we are going to stay at the University of Alabama. We love it in Tuscaloosa, have made some great friends here and I think we are building something special here at Alabama with Coach (Nick) Saban.”
Rumors swirled about Smart’s decision throughout the weekend, but Saban put the stories to rest when he capped a news conference announcing linebacker Rolando McClain’s departure for the NFL by saying Smart would remain with the Crimson Tide. Alabama’s players had been informed just moments before.
“We’ve very pleased and happy that Kirby is going to be staying here at the University of Alabama with us,” Saban said. “He’s done a fabulous job for us. He’s one of the finest assistant coaches in the country. You expect guys like Kirby to get lots of opportunities to do things, and we want to continue to help him continue to develop his career here so that when he leaves here, it’s going to be to be a head coach and probably in a very good situation.”
Smart’s decision to remain at Alabama marks the fourth coach to earn a bigger contract elsewhere after being courted by the Bulldogs. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said he had serious talks with Georgia before getting a raise to stay put, as did LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. Former Kansas State co-defensive coordinator Vic Koenning negotiated with Georgia at the last minute before officially accepting a job with Illinois.
Throughout it all, Georgia head coach Mark Richt has remained silent, reiterating that plan Sunday before the news of Smart’s decision broke.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve been saying all along is that I’m not going to make any comment on the search until I’ve got my guy,” Richt said. “I’ll let you know when it happens, I promise.”
Martinez, defensive ends coach Jon Fabris and linebackers coach John Jancek were all dismissed by Richt on Dec. 2. Fabris has since been hired at Louisville, while Jancek earned a spot on the staff at Cincinnati.
Where Georgia turns next in its search remains a bit of a mystery, but various reports have suggested Richt has interest Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham and New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Travis Jones, who also played at Georgia.