Georgia coach Kirby Smart: A $100 million man in the making

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Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs are off and running taking the field on the way to a 10-3 victory over Clemson game on Saturday, Sept 4, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart is due for a raise, and that number figures to be climbing with each step the sixth-year head coach takes up the College Football Playoff Championship ladder.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs (10-0. 8-0 SEC) are considered a virtual lock for the College Football Playoffs, even in the event they were to lose in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.

That’s not the plan, mind you. Smart has kept his program laser-focused through a slew of injuries, a quarterback change and the suspension of a team captain.

Alabama coach Nick Saban sets the bar for coaching salaries at $9.75 million per year, but Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher recently had his contract extended four years through 2031 and will make more than $9 million per year.

Michigan State’s Mel Tucker has just 29 games as a head coach under his belt, but the former Georgia defensive coordinator is reportedly on the verge of agreeing to a 10-year, $95 million contract.

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Smart gives Tucker a great deal of credit for the strong start he got off to at UGA, leading the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff Championship Game his second season with Tucker at his side as defensive coordinator.

“Mel was tremendous for our program; he was tremendous for me,” Smart said. “Probably a bigger asset for me personally as a young first-time head coach. He was a great asset to the players, to the guys he played for, he’s a really good teacher.

“Probably not as emotional as I was early on, and it helped keep things at a level head.”

Smart, meanwhile, has not had his contract updated since 2018, when he signed a seven-year deal worth $7 million a year.

At the time, it made Smart the fifth-highest paid coach in college football.

Smart currently ranks No. 8 on the salary chart, but by the time UGA starts negotiations on his salary after the season, the Georgia head coach could rank out of the Top 10.

Until the deal is done, at which point Smart could and should rank at the top.

LSU, most notably, is searching for a new head coach while Ed Orgeron ($9.012 per year salary) finishes out the season, less than two years removed from winning a national championship.

The Tigers’ hire will help set the bar for super-agent Jimmy Sexton, who represents Smart and Saban among several others.

Top 5 paid coaches per USA Today

 Nick Saban, $9,753,221

 Ed Orgeron $9,012,917

 David Shaw $8,924,683

 Dabo Swinney $8,370,775

 Lincoln Riley, $7,672,710

The good news for Georgia fans is that Smart is a former Bulldog who truly bleeds red and black. The idea of him coaching anywhere else seems unfathomable.

The University of Georgia hired Josh Brooks as athletic director largely with Smart in mind. The 40-year-old Brooks is football savvy and can relate better with the head coach than most anyone else in the athletic administrative world.

Brooks has engineered a majority of the $180 million in football facilities upgrades and additions since 2015, including the new state-of-the-art $80 million football building.

Smart also has had his pick of assistant coaches, with no limitations, per a former UGA administrator.

So while Smart’s salary hasn’t increased in the past three seasons, the environment around him has greatly improved and made his job easier.

It’s hard not to imagine a deal in the 10-year, $100 million range being settled on for Smart.

That’s because it’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs finding a better fit for football head coach than Kirby Smart.

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