SEC

Georgia rewards Kirby Smart after national title with new deal making him top-paid coach

Marc Weiszer
Athens Banner-Herald

More than six months after Kirby Smart delivered Georgia football its first national championship in 41 years, the school finally announced a new, long-term contract  Thursday that will make Smart among the highest compensated coaches in the nation.

Georgia will pay Smart $10.25 million in the first year of a new deal that runs through the 2031 season. That makes him the highest paid college football coach at a public university based on documents compiled by USA TODAY Sports.

The contract will have annual increases that increase to $12,250,000 for the 2031 season, making the total package worth $112,500,000 before bonuses. The total compensation amount is larger than any other coaching contract in college sports.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Georgia president Jere Morehead said in late May that he expected a deal to be finalized in the weeks ahead and that the athletic board would be presented terms to approve in writing before an announcement.

“I am pleased that Coach Smart has made a long-term commitment to the University of Georgia,” Morehead said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to seeing his continued success with the Georgia Bulldogs for many years to come.”

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Smart, 46, is 65-15 in six seasons including 40-9 in the SEC. He returned to his alma mater where he was an All-SEC safety following nine seasons as an Alabama assistant, eight as defensive coordinator.

He guided Georgia in 2021 to its first unbeaten regular season since 1982 and after a loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, led Georgia to its second College Football Playoff national championship game after the Bulldogs routed Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

Georgia then finally overcame its Alabama hurdle with a 33-18 win in the national title game in Indianapolis.

“Mary Beth, my family & I are excited and grateful for the extension of my agreement with The University of Georgia," Smart said in a statement. "This is home for us, our roots run deep here. My commitment to this University and our Football program is unwavering. I’m thankful to President Jere Morehead and (AD) Josh Brooks for their continued support of Georgia Football.  It’s an honor being the head football coach at the University of Georgia, and while I’m certainly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, I’m confident the best is yet to come!” 

Morehead said in May that the school was working to put Smart on par with the pay of other national championship coaches.

Smart is the sixth coach to be paid at least $9 million, according to figures kept by USA TODAY Sports. His new compensation for the 2022 season is ahead of Alabama's Nick Saban ($9.9 million), Michigan State's Mel Tucker ($9.5 million), Ohio State's Ryan Day ($9.5 million),  LSU's Brian Kelly ($9.5 million) and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher ($9 million).

“He is a bright, focused, determined individual who is devoted to the University of Georgia,” Morehead said at a dedication of an $80 million expansion and renovation of the Butts-Mehre building that brought a new football operations center. “Just look at his impressive record so far. SEC championship. Sugar Bowl championship. Peach Bowl Championship. Orange Bowl championship and now a national championship. I am pleased that as a great student himself, Coach Smart expects his players to work as hard in the classroom as they do on the field with the goals of winning SECs and national championships and ultimately earning a college degree.”

Smart was paid $7.2 million last season before bonuses as part of a contract he received in May of 2018 after Georgia reached the national championship game in his second season that ran through the 2024 season.

“Coach Smart’s impact on the University of Georgia extends far past his significant accolades as our head football coach,” Brooks said in a statement. “He and his wife are Bulldogs through and through, and it is evident that Athens and UGA mean as much to him as he means to us. I am excited for our football program’s continued success under his direction.  The future of Georgia Football remains bright with Coach Smart as its steadfast leader.”