ATHENS — Georgia’s hiring of Kirby Smart is now official.
The UGA executive committee officially approved the hiring on contract terms that will be made public “shortly,” according to UGA president Jere Morehead.
Smart, 39, has been Alabama’s defensive coordinator for the past eight years. This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally in total defense. (Georgia’s, under Jeremy Pruitt, is ninth.)
“It’s an honor and privilege to return home to the University of Georgia and my home state,” Smart said in a statement. “I’m deeply appreciative of the faith President Morehead, Greg McGarity, and the Athletic Board Executive Committee have demonstrated in asking me to lead one of the truly great college football programs in the country. I also want to thank Coach (Nick) Saban. I have been fortunate to spend 11 seasons with him as my mentor and have learned a tremendous amount from him as a coach and teacher. I’m honored and excited for the opportunity at Georgia and promise high energy, effort every day, and hard work every minute on the part of all our coaches, staff and student-athletes.”
Alabama is in the national playoff, and Smart told his players that he would remain with the Crimson Tide until its season was over. The first national semifinal is on Dec. 30, and the championship game is Jan. 11.
Bryan McClendon is still expected to coach Georgia in its bowl, which should be announced Sunday as the Gator Bowl against Penn State, on Jan. 2 at noon.
Smart played four seasons at UGA (1995-98), making All-SEC as a senior, and had 13 career interceptions.
He was also a four-time member of the SEC academic honor roll. Smart’s wife, the former Mary Beth Lycett, was a basketball player at UGA.
“It was critical to identify a person who would focus on a specific, defined process of developing championship football teams on and off the playing field,” athletics director Greg McGarity said in a statement. “Someone who understands the true meaning of a student-athlete by actually experiencing it himself — someone who competed at the highest levels on the playing field, was mentored by some of the very best in the game, and understood the specific ingredients necessary to excel at the highest levels of college athletics — Kirby Smart fits that profile. I believe Kirby Smart is the perfect fit for the University of Georgia.”
“I interviewed Coach Smart on Sunday morning, and, following that interview, I accepted the athletic director’s recommendation to hire Kirby,” Morehead said in a statement. “I am pleased to welcome Kirby, his wife, Mary Beth, and their three children back home to the University of Georgia, and I look forward to supporting him in his new role as our head football coach.”
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