Greg McGarity did not have to go to his Plan B, which is good because I’m not sure if there was a Plan B.
With minor angst swirling over Georgia’s delayed official hiring of Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have finalized a deal Sunday with their former safety and Alabama’s defensive coordinator as their next head coach. The contract was expected to be rubber-stamped by the UGA Athletic Association during 12:30 p.m. conference call today, and Smart likely will be introduced at a news conference Monday in Athens.
UPDATE: The hiring is official. I’ve attached the official news release below.
Had negotiations between McGarity and Smart’s agent, Jimmy Sexton unraveled, whether because of Smart’s contract demands or other financial considerations like assistants’ salaries and overall budget, McGarity would have been in a bad spot, given the lack of options (see below). Smart’s hiring seemed imminent from the moment coach Mark Richt was fired last Sunday, the day after the regular season. But Georgia gets a little emotional nice boost from the timing of this as Smart’s Alabama defensive is coming off a dominating performance over Florida in the SEC championship game. The Gators were held to one scoring possessions, seven first downs, 180 yards and went 0-for-11 on third down in the Crimson Tide’s 29-15 win.
The fan base appears divided on Smart. In short: The good is that he knows the landscape at Georgia and the SEC, is a strong recruiter and potentially brings with him some of the secrets of Alabama’s success — at least the secret not named Nick Saban. The doubts revolve around the fact he never has been a head coach before.
But I like the hiring. First-time head coaches never come with guarantees but there is nothing to suggest Smart will not succeed or will not be able to hire a strong staff.
I wrote previously that it would have been nice if McGarity aimed high in his pursuit of a new head coach. Georgia is one of the nation’s top 10 coach jobs, potentially even one of the top five. But consider what has happened in the past couple of weeks:
• LSU pondered firing Les Miles but backed off.
• Jimbo Fisher opted not to leave Florida State, even with potential other jobs (like LSU) available.
• Chip Kelly said he will not resign from the Philadelphia Eagles to return to college after this season. Even if the Eagles fire him, a college team with an opening would have to wait another five weeks before trying to sign Kelly. There’s no guarantee of that happening, to say nothing of likely losing recruits during the process.
• South Carolina (SEC) pursued Houston coach Tom Herman, who suddenly became the college football’s flavor of the month, but was rejected. So the Gamecocks settled on an unlikely candidate: Will Muschamp, who’s only one year removed from a miserable run as head coach at Florida and spent this season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.
• Southern Cal (Pac-12), the only open job that potentially could be considered better than Georgia’s, didn’t hire a big name. The Trojans promoted offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who had been serving as interim head coach since the firing of Steve Sarkisian.
• Miami (ACC), as you might’ve heard, hired Mark Richt.
• Virginia Tech (ACC) hired Justin Fuente, who has been winning the last two years at Memphis, a former Conference USA school that now plays in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). So this is kind of a step up.
• Maryland (Big Ten) hired Michigan’s defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin.
• Missouri (SEC) promoted defensive coordinator Barry Odom.
Which, if any of those, wow you? Richt, maybe?
I’ll be interested to see who Smart brings in as his coordinators. But this hires looks pretty good today.