ATHENS — The major points of Kirby Smart’s employment agreement with Georgia were finalized and announced when he signed a memo of understanding last December, shortly before being named the Bulldogs’ new coach. At that point, his deal looked remarkably similar to that of his predecessor Mark Richt.
But six months later, after Smart, UGA President Jere Morehead, Athletic Director Greg McGarity and their respective representation finally got around to finalizing and signing the actual contract, it is evident that there are some subtle differences in the employment agreements. And some not so subtle.
The biggest difference: Smart’s new contract includes the controversial “conduct and ethics clause.” That condition was a major sticking point for Richt and his representation after he agreed to a raise and new contract in January of 2015.
In fact, Richt never did sign that last deal. So technically he was operating under the guidelines of the contract he signed in 2012. Ultimately, though, UGA honored the handshake agreement and paid Richt based on the agreed-upon increased compensation — $4 million – when it fired Richt on Nov. 28.
But while Richt never signed off on that clause, Smart did. It is included on Page 9, Section 3B, of Smart’s the 33-page contract. That contract – executed in late May – was turned over to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week in compliance with an opens record request.
It is essentially a disciplinary clause and it is found in the compensation section of Smart’s new contract. It gives the Georgia Athletic Association the right to withhold pay from the head coach in the case of a material violation of “one or more of the duties, obligations or expectations … that do not rise to a level warranting termination.”
Call it the “Jack Bauerle Clause.” The legendary swim coach, who has led the Bulldogs to seven national championships over 36 seasons, was indefinitely suspended and his pay and bonuses frozen in 2014 while his program was under NCAA investigation for providing extra benefits to a star swimmer. After those charges were substantiated, Bauerle was also ordered to repay more than $100,000 in legal fees the athletic association paid to defend the charges.
Financial penalties previously had not been spelled out in any coaches’ contracts, but now they are. Going forward, it is “standard operating procedure” for all of the Bulldogs’ head coaches, according to McGarity.
“I’d just say that events that occur around the country often lead to changes in contracts everywhere,” McGarity said. “Things have to be adjusted all the time, not only here but around the country.”
So Smart’s contract now states that UGA has “the right to withhold or reduce performance bonuses … and other compensation payable to Smart … by a maximum of 25 percent for up to 12 months.” Furthermore, it states that the athletic association can recommend suspension “with or without pay” for up to one year and recommend that the University “take other disciplinary action.”
That’s one major difference. The other is in the area of performance bonuses.
The maximum Smart can earn in bonuses for winning SEC and national championships — $1.6 million — is double what Richt’s last deal allowed ($800,000). However, McGarity said the same breakdown was included in the new deal that Richt never signed.
Also, the buyout structure is markedly different for Smart than it was for Richt. That’s understandable considering Smart is a first-year head coach and Richt was at Georgia 15 years.
Smart would owe UGA one year’s salary, or $3.75 million, if he resigned after this year. It is prorated each year thereafter, from $3 million in year two to his base salary of $400,000 in 2021, the final year. Conversely, the Bulldogs would have to pay Smart $13.5 million if they fired him after this season, $10.8 million in 2017, $7.05 million in 2018, and so on. UGA had to pay Richt just $4 million, or 25 percent of his total deal, when it dismissed him last November.
Meanwhile, the narrative has been that Smart is making fewer public appearances. In reality, according to the “public relations obligations” section of Smart’s contract, he actually will be doing more PR. However, his requirements are oriented more toward endorsement and fund-raising opportunities than those of a pep rally nature.
Like Richt, Smart must also make “no fewer 12 unpaid personal appearances” before Bulldog Clubs throughout the Southeast and “a reasonable number of appearances” on the Bulldog Hotline and the coach’s many other media platforms. However, Paragraph 1F also calls for Smart to spend at least two days helping the president fund-raise, make no fewer than 12 annual endorsement appearances for the football program at UGA’s request and that any payments for such “university-related appearances be negotiated and kept by the association.” In addition, Smart must be available for three personal appearances on behalf of Nike or any future equipment provider and up to three appearances on behalf of IMG or any future rights holder.
Smart agreed to these requirements, but with an added caveat: “The Association and University acknowledge and understand that Smart’s primary obligation shall be to the serve as the head coach of the University’s football team,” and these university-related appearances “shall be subject to his roles of directing the team, including but not limited to its practice, playing and workout schedules and the recruitment of potential student-athletes.”
Smart also included the word “reasonable” to another section about complying with the AD’s requests for appearances, “subject to Smart’s schedule in fulfilling his primary role as head football coach.”
It’s not a sticking point, McGarity said. “He wants to get out and fund-raise,” he said. “He’s already done that. Kirby’s wired that way.”
Other differences in the two contracts are less stark. Such as:
- Smart had Georgia remove a clause in paragraph that required Richt to keep “the recruitment of junior college athletes to a minimum.” Smart signed one “JUCO” transfer in the 2016 class in wide receiver Javon Wims of Hinds Community College and is actively recruiting more for 2017.
- Smart’s representation also had UGA remove a requirement for the head coach and his assistants to attend two professional development courses per calendar year. He still plans to, however.
- Richt’s contract required that he tender any notice of resignation on or before January 15 of any calendar. Smart’s clause to that effect was less specific, stating “at a time that will minimize the harm to the team or its recruiting efforts.”
- There is a stipulation that Smart’s wife and children can travel to any road or neutral-site game at the school’s expense. Smart gets the use of a 25-seat box at Sanford Stadium and an addition six tickets to all home, away and neutral-site games. Richt’s contract didn’t include such a request but he was afforded the same perk, UGA says.