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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)


In his second season as Georgia's head football coach, Kirby Smart guided the Bulldogs to their first Southeastern Conference championship in 12 years, their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 75 years and their first appearance in the four-team national playoff.

Georgia's 13-2 season ended with a 26-23 overtime loss to Alabama in January's national championship game, but the Bulldogs have since landed the nation's No. 1 signing class and packed Sanford Stadium for their G-Day spring game for a second time in three years.

Thursday afternoon, Smart was rewarded for all his efforts.


The 42-year-old former Georgia safety and former Alabama defensive coordinator under Nick Saban received a new seven-year contract totaling $49 million that will run through the 2024 season. Smart's new deal was approved during a meeting of the university's Athletic Association board of directors executive committee.

"Kirby has provided an incredible level of energy and excitement to our football program," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said in a release, "and we look forward to his leadership for many years to come."

Smart's new contract replaces the six-year pact at $3.75 million annually that he received in December 2015, when he was hired to replace Mark Richt, who led the Bulldogs to a 145-51 record in 15 seasons. Richt, coincidentally, received a contract extension Thursday through 2023 after guiding the Miami Hurricanes to a 19-7 record through his first two seasons at his alma mater.

The Bulldogs went 8-5 in Smart's first season in 2016, suffering losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech in the same year for the first time since 1961, but they closed with a 31-23 victory over TCU in the Liberty Bowl and have been rolling since.

Georgia raced out to a 9-0 start last season, which included a 20-19 September topping of Notre Dame in the program's first trip to historic South Bend, and was ranked No. 1 in the college football playoff rankings. The Bulldogs fell from the top spot after a 40-17 loss at Auburn but responded by routing Kentucky (42-13) and Georgia Tech (38-7) and then scoring the final 28 points in a 28-7 triumph over Auburn in the SEC title game.

The Bulldogs reached the national championship game by outlasting Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, which may be Georgia's most memorable win since its miraculous defeat of Florida in 1980. Georgia won the 1980 national championship, but the 2017 national title slipped from its grasp when Crimson Tide freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected with freshman receiver DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard touchdown on second-and-26 in the overtime period.

"As a young boy, I grew up in this great state dreaming of being a Bulldog," Smart said. "To have been able to do that -- first as a player, and now as the head football coach -- is beyond anything I ever dreamed. I do not take lightly the awesome responsibility of leading this program, and while I'm pleased with where we are as a program, I couldn't be more excited about where we're going in the future.

"You can rest assured that we will continue to work tirelessly to make Georgia football the best it can possibly be."

Smart will be the third highest-paid coach in the SEC for the 2018 season, behind Saban ($7.53 million) and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher ($7.5 million) and just ahead of Auburn's Gus Malzahn ($6.7 million) and Florida's Dan Mullen ($6.1 million). Fisher and Mullen are first-year coaches at their respective schools, with Fisher having led Florida State to the 2013 national championship and with Mullen having guided Mississippi State to eight straight bowl games and the program's first No. 1 ranking in October 2014.

Malzahn has directed Auburn to one SEC title and two SEC West titles and is the only active coach in the league to defeat Saban, posting a 2-3 record in five tries. He was courted by Arkansas last year and received a new seven-year, $49 million contract in December that will begin at $6.7 million this year and increase annually by $100,000.

It was not immediately known whether Smart's new contract will be staggered similarly. Smart is the highest-paid coach in Georgia athletic history, as Richt was making $4.1 million at the time of his termination.

"In just two short years, Coach Smart has established a new level of excellence in UGA's storied football program," Georgia president Jere W. Morehead said. "I look forward to his continued success and his strong support of this great university."

Barnes transferring

Georgia redshirt sophomore lineman Chris Barnes announced Thursday via Instagram that he is transferring.

The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder from Leesburg, Ga., was a three-star member of Georgia's 2016 signing class and redshirted that season. His one career appearance with the Bulldogs occurred as an offensive lineman in last October's 53-28 win over Missouri.

Barnes moved to the defensive front last month.

"I'm grateful for the many lifetime memories I've created with my teammates, fans and the Athens community," Barnes posted. "I haven't made a decision on where to continue my football career, but I am eager to explore all options."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.

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May 4, 2018


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