ATHENS, Ga. — It’s Jimmy Sexton’s world and the SEC is living in it. And that’s certainly a good thing if you happen to be an SEC football coach.
Kirby Smart is, and he’s about to reap the benefits of his association with both parties. Sexton is the Georgia coach’s agent, as he is for most of the SEC’s coaches. He represents 11 of the league’s 14 coaches, if I’m not mistaken. Whatever the number, he’s the agent of record for the coaches who make most of the money in the conference. And Smart is about to move up that list.
At least that’s what I’m guessing. Georgia circulated a very cryptic news release on Wednesday alerting the media of “a telephonic meeting of the Executive Committee of UGA Athletic Association Board” on Thursday “to discuss and deliberate upon the employment terms and compensation of a public employee.”
We’re just assuming that “public employee” is Smart, though I guess it could be somebody else. Either way, 2018 stands to be a very good year for Georgia’s young coach and his family. SEC football economics being what they are — thanks in part to the SEC Network and Mr. Sexton — the market will dictate what kind of a new deal Smart gets. And based on this cryptic alert, I’m hearing a giant ship’s horn sound as it prepares to dock at Smart’s house.
And deservedly so. Heading into Smart’s third year, the Bulldogs are coming off a 13-2 season and their first SEC championship in 12 years. Now he’s still a relatively young and inexperienced coach, but that puts him in interesting territory.
Smart’s current six-year contract pays him $3.75 million annually, which was in the middle of the league last year. But the assumption is Georgia is going to want to slot him at the top, considering that’s where his team was when the 2017 ended. And that’s a big jump.
Alabama’s Nick Saban is and always will be the SEC’s highest-compensated coach. I’m not sure what the Crimson Tide is going to do with his contract, but he made $11.1 million last year before winning the national championship. Texas A&M immediately made Jimbo Fisher the SEC’s second-highest paid coach ($7.5 million) to move there from Florida State. For a minute, Florida made former Mississippi State Dan Mullen coach No. 3 on that list at $6.1 million. But that’s before Auburn adjusted Gus Malzahn’s deal to pay him $7 million annually for seven years. Then Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt as its new coach and paid him more than Smart ($3.8 million per).
I’d expect a significant market adjustment for Smart. Obviously, the details of that new contract won’t be known until the Georgia athletic association’s board approves and announces them, but I’m guessing Sexton will try to slot Smart at least above Mullen and possibly ahead of Malzahn. That, my friends, could make Smart a $7 Million Dollar Man.
Could is the operative word. I’m not sure if UGA could be comfortable paying its coach that much money based on a two-year sample size. But the Bulldogs certainly have a lot of momentum, both on the field and in the recruiting arena.
Well, they did until a certain linebacker from Loganville, Ga., committed to Auburn on Wednesday. But I loved the ever-competitive Smart’s response to that via Twitter. Shortly after Owen Pappoe’s announcement for the Tigers, Smart tweeted some factoids on Georgia’s linebacker legacy in the NFL.
Congrats to all of our guys !! Hard work pays off! Go Dawgs! pic.twitter.com/Z4xGyiANgP
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) May 1, 2018
Pretty funny. It’ll be interesting to see Thursday if UGA is equally competitive on the salary front.
It can’t hurt Smart to have Sexton doing the talking for him. In the SEC at least, that guy seems to be holding all the cards.