On the heels of its first national title since 1980, Georgia announced a 10-year, $111 million contract extension for coach Kirby Smart following his appearance at SEC Media Days. The new deal will run through the 2031 season and pay Smart between $10.25 million and $12.25 million per season, making him the highest-paid college football coach at a public university. Smart, 46, was previously making $7.13 million, according to USA TODAY’s salary database. However, coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney have contractual provisions that will keep their pay in line with the sport’s best-compensated coaches.
“Coach Smart’s impact on the University of Georgia extends far past his significant accolades as our head football coach,” Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said in a statement. “He and his wife are Bulldogs through and through, and it is evident that Athens and UGA mean as much to him as he means to us. I am excited for our football program’s continued success under his direction. The future of Georgia Football remains bright with Coach Smart as its steadfast leader.”
Smart has amassed a 66-15 record in seven seasons at his alma mater following a nine-year run on the Alabama staff. Since an 8-5 debut campaign in 2016, the Bulldogs are 58-10 and have played in four of the past five SEC Championship Games. His acceleration of the program’s success following the Mark Richt era reached its zenith last season when the Bulldogs used a historically dominant defense to finish 14-1 with a victory over Alabama and Smart’s former boss, Saban, in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
“Mary Beth, my family & I are excited and grateful for the extension of my agreement with The University of Georgia,” Smart said. “This is home for us, our roots run deep here. My commitment to this University and our Football program is unwavering,” said head football coach Kirby Smart. “I’m thankful to President Jere Morehead and Josh Brooks for their continued support of Georgia Football. It’s an honor being the head football coach at the University of Georgia, and while I’m certainly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, I’m confident the best is yet to come!”
Formalizing his place
Winning a national title is what solidified Smart’s place as one of the top-five coaches in college football, but this massive contract extension amounts to a formal acknowledgement from Georgia that he’s in the conversation for top coach in the sport. Smart ranked No. 2 behind Saban in our May ranking of the top 25 Power Five coaches, and his compensation now reflects that reality.
Message to recruits
The likelihood of Smart ever leaving Georgia for another college job has always seemed slim considering that he played for Georgia in the 1990s and has accumulated considerable influence at the school in his seven seasons on the job. Considering also that Smart spent just one season on an NFL staff — with the Dolphins in 2006 — it’s long been clear that the NFL is not atop his list of aspirations. But if there was every any doubt among recruits of Smart’s long-term relationship with UGA, Thursday’s announcement clears that up emphatically. Some coaches are always in pursuit of something bigger and better, but for Smart there is likely nothing bigger or better in the game of football than coaching at his alma mater.
A path to immortalization
As Smart enters his seventh season with 10 years now remaining on his contract, he is positioned to keep ascending among the all-time greats at the school. Vince Dooley, who coached from 1964 to 1988, sits atop the school’s wins list with 201 victories. But the idea of Smart coaching at Georgia into the 2030s puts him on a trajectory to one day challenge Dooley for that record. Smart’s predecessor, Mark Richt, is second on the list with 145 wins.