UGA ‘close to finalizing’ lucrative contract extension for football coach Kirby Smart

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart holds up The Coaches’ Trophy during the celebration of Georgia’s College Football Playoff national championship at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, January 15, 2022. Georgia captured the national championship, its first since the 1980 season, with a 33-18 victory over Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart holds up The Coaches’ Trophy during the celebration of Georgia’s College Football Playoff national championship at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, January 15, 2022. Georgia captured the national championship, its first since the 1980 season, with a 33-18 victory over Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

GREENSBORO – Georgia football coach Kirby Smart is about to get a new deal, and it’s going to be among the highest-paying in college athletics.

Everybody knew that already, but UGA President Jere Morehead put a timeline on it Thursday during the Georgia Athletic Association’s board of directors meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge. Morehead asked for the board to move into “executive session” to discuss undisclosed “personnel matters.” After emeritus board members, athletic department personnel and media were dismissed from the room, he advised the full board that a new deal – “commensurate to other championship coaches” – is in the works and should be finalized in the “coming weeks.”

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“It will be commensurate with what you would expect compensation to be for a national championship coach,” Morehead told reporters in a question-and-answer session after the first day of the two-day meeting was adjourned. “We’re close to finalizing those arrangements. I don’t think anybody will be surprised.”

Athletic Director Josh Brooks is leading UGA’s negotiation with Smart’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, of Creative Artists Agency.

“It’s just going through the process, taking your time,” Brooks said. “This is an important contract for him and for us. It’s just all little details. It’s just typical stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Morehead simultaneously advised the group in executive session that he is recommending a pay raise for Brooks.

Smart currently makes $7.1 million annually in a contract that was reworked in 2018 and extended through the 2024 football season. Smart’s peers in the coaching business – that is, those who have won national championships or were hired by elite Power 5 football programs in the last year – have received 10-year deals that pay them upward of $10 million a year.

New USC coach Lincoln Riley, who left Oklahoma to take over Southern Cal’s football program, reportedly signed a 10-year contract worth $110 million, according to published reports, and currently is the highest-paid football coach in college athletics. LSU’s Brian Kelly is considered the SEC’s highest-paid coach after accepting a 10-year, $100 million contract to leave his job at Notre Dame.

Smart’s seven-year, $49 million deal placed him 10th nationally among college football’s highest-paid coaches as of December. That was before he led the Bulldogs to a 14-1 season and their first national championship in 41 years in Jan. 10 victory over Alabama.

Brooks, 40, is one of the youngest ADs in Power 5 athletics. When he succeeded the retiring Greg McGarity in January 2021, Brooks signed an employment agreement that pays him $700,000 a year, with annual raises of $25,000 due at the end of each academic year. That’s among the lowest in the SEC, according to Morehead.

“This is more about just recognizing that he’s had a great start and making a modest adjustment,” Morehead said. “We’re not at the point yet of doing a new contract. That probably comes in a year or so. But I think that what I want to signal and what our athletic board wants to signal is that for being the youngest AD in the Power 5, he’s gotten off to a sensational start, and we know that he’s got a bright and long future as athletic director at the University of Georgia. I think he’s doing a superb job in all respects.”