Weighing in on what has been an eventful week for UGA athletics

Todd Gurley-Georgia football-memorabilia
Georgia and Todd Gurley have had some memorable matchups with Clemson over the years. And more memories shall be made soon.

ATHENS — Wow, what a week it has been. There was a lot of big news bubbling up in and around UGA, some of it good, some of it not so good.

Let’s run through some of the headlines and I’ll give you my take.

Kirby’s contract

I’ve weighed in on this a lot the last 72 hours, it seems, but let’s just say that was a real attention-getter. When coach Kirby Smart finally signs his new deal — he has not yet, by the way — he will become the seventh member of the $7 Million Club in college football and the fifth-highest paid coach in the game.

We all knew a raise and extension was coming for Georgia’s third-year football coach. The only question was whether he would go above or stay below veteran conference peers Dan Mullen of Florida ($6.1 million) and Gus Malzahn of Auburn ($7 million). Turns out the Bulldogs and Smart’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, felt the exact same deal as Malzahn was appropriate.

It’s also interesting to note that Smart is one of just three members of that club who hasn’t won a national championship (Malzahn and Jim Harbaugh are the others). That’s the obvious expectation for Smart now from Georgia, which traditionally has been much more conservative when it comes to the expenditures.

So, the compensation is nice for Smart, but it will come with a massive amount of pressure. Winning the natty is hard, if you haven’t noticed. But Smart has shown he has a road map for getting there.

For what it’s worth, here’s a best guess at the per-year compensation rankings of the SEC’s coaches, based on a variety of published reports:

  1. Nick Saban, Alabama: $11,132,000
  2. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: $7,500,000
  3. Kirby Smart, Georgia: $7,000,000
  4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: $7,000,000
  5. Dan Mullen, Florida: $6,100,000
  6. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: $3,800,000
  7. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: $3,750,600
  8. Chad Morris, Arkansas: $3,500,000
  9. Ed Orgeron, LSU: $3,500,000
  10. Will Muschamp, South Carolina: $3,100,000
  11. Matt Luke, Ole Miss: $3,000,000
  12. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: $2,721,834
  13. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: $2,700,000
  14. Barry Odom, Missouri: $2,350,000

Playing Clemson

I’ve sort of bit my lip on the recent “news” that Georgia and Clemson are interested in renewing their rivalry. The truth is, this is not news. Georgia and Clemson are always going to play each other as often as reasonably possible. The fact is, it’s not possible as often as it used to be, and it won’t be unless the Tigers do what they should’ve done years ago and join the SEC.

I put this discussion in the same category as I do the semi-annual “news” that they might move the Georgia-Florida game out of Jacksonville. The fact is, the Cocktail Party will always be the Cocktail Party, only with a sprinkling of contractual negotiation every couple of years, just to keep the pot right.

As for Georgia and Clemson, the schools located 77 miles apart have played each other 64 times and every year but two from 1962 to 1987 — but only two times since. The reason for that was the expansion of the SEC, which may or may not be done expanding.

Since then, the schools have gotten together for four home-and-home series, all in back-to-back years (1990-91, 1994-95, 2002-03, 2013-14). On average, that’s been about every seven years.

As it turns out, UGA has some openings for nonconference opponents in its schedule in 2021 and 2022, as well as ’23 through ’25. There’s actually one in 2020, but I’m assuming the Bulldogs, who are already playing Virginia and Georgia Tech that season, wouldn’t want to play three ACC opponents.

So, I’d say it’s pretty logical that Clemson and Georgia would schedule their next home-and-home for 2021-22. If not then, then the next year or two.

I’m not sure what Dabo Swinney’s motive is to always bring up that they’d “love to play Georgia every year,” because it’s not going to happen. But it would make for a great intraconference rivalry!

Owen Pappoe saga

Georgia lost out to Auburn in the Owen Pappoe sweepstakes this week. At least that’s the narrative. I’ll just say it’s better to lose such a battle in May than it is in, say, December.

A couple of thoughts on this. First, I see where Pappoe is listed as an outside linebacker. Not just an OLB, but the No. 1 OLB in America, according to 247Sports.

If Pappoe is indeed an OLB, it won’t be in the SEC. Here’s what happens to OLB’s who are 6-feet, 209 pounds, as Pappoe is listed. The opposing offense lines up, the quarterback sees the athletic speedster lined up on the edge, checks to a power dive and runs the football straight at him. I’ve read about Pappoe’s tremendous SPARQ rating, but that doesn’t overcome the laws of physics, which favor a 6-6, 330-pound tackle likely paired with a 6-5, 250-pound tight end in front of a 6-1, 220-pound running back running at the same or greater speed than Pappoe.

So let’s get that out of the way. He’s an inside linebacker along the lines of Georgia’s Roquan Smith, which is not a bad thing. And Georgia and Auburn are both in dire need of some help in that department. So this battle will be waged continuously until the early signing period in December.

The same can’t be said of true defensive end/OLB Kevin Harris, who announced his commitment to Alabama at the same Grayson-based extravaganza at Sports & Social this week. Harris is mad at UGA for pulling back in its recruitment of him and claims he will have a “bone to pick” with the Bulldogs during his career in Tuscaloosa.

Maybe so, and that’s fine. But this was simply a supply-and-demand situation. Georgia just signed Adam Anderson, Brenton Cox and Azeez Ojulari at that position and has a commitment from Nolan Smith for 2019. Three of those four players are 5-star-rated prospects.

Let’s just say if those guys had pledged to Bama, the Bulldogs would still be on board with Harris. It’s that simple. Nothing to get mad about.

The Butler Did It

Congratulations to Georgia’s 83 current and former student-athletes who will walk in commencement ceremonies at UGA on Friday night, especially to my old friend and classmate Kevin Butler.

Butler and I went to Redan High School, where he graduated a year behind me and had a slightly more notable college career at UGA than me. After setting every Georgia placekicking record, getting drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1985, winning a Super Bowl during an All-Pro career, retiring and building a successful business, the College Football Hall of Fame member just now got around to finishing his degree at UGA.

“One of my fellow students asked me why I didn’t finish in ’85; I said, ‘I got drafted,’ ” Butler, 55, told me Friday. “She said, ‘By the Army?’ ”

You’ll note that Butler also got drafted by Smart to help Georgia with its kicking specialists while he was attending classes. Butler did that — to great distinction, I might add — the last two years.

With his graduation, that gig is up for Butler. As far as he knows, he will not be continuing with UGA in any other capacity, though he did explore the possibilities.

Meanwhile, Butler continues to rehab from his second hip replacement, which he underwent in April. His biggest issue now is figuring out how to get from Sanford Stadium to Stegeman Coliseum for a post-graduation photo op with his fellow Bulldogs.

“I’ll pay good money for a ride,” Butler quipped. “The new hip can’t make it that far.”

I’m betting he’ll find some transportation — free of charge.

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