UPDATED 4 P.M.
Georgia’s football program still doesn’t have a defensive coordinator, but the opening continues to prove lucrative for coaches pursued for the job.
LSU said Thursday that its highly regarded defensive coordinator, John Chavis, received a pay raise and agreed to stay in his current job after being offered the Georgia position.
Georgia’s chase of Chavis played out similarly to its earlier pursuit of veteran Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who said he turned down a UGA offer after the Hokies considerably sweetened his contract.
Chavis’ decision could prolong an already month-long Georgia search for a successor to the fired Willie Martinez. UGA coach Mark Richt said for the first time Thursday that the search could extend beyond the first week of the new year.
“I don’t know if it will or not, but it could,” said Richt, who previously had said he hoped to have a new coordinator hired by the end of the first week of January.
Richt declined to discuss Chavis or any other candidate Thursday, saying: “I’m not going to make any comment on these things until we’ve got our man.” But he did say that Rodney Garner, the only holdover on Georgia’s defensive coaching staff, isn’t under consideration for the coordinator position.
“No, Rodney is not a candidate for the job, and he knows that,” Richt said. “We’re just still in the search.”
LSU athletics director Joe Alleva, in Orlando for the Tigers’ Capital One Bowl game against Penn State on Friday, told Gannett Louisiana Newspapers that Chavis was offered a raise Wednesday night to turn down a Georgia offer in the neighborhood of $600,000 per year over three years.
“We did what we needed to do to keep him,” Alleva said.
“I’m staying at LSU, and I’m excited about remaining here,” Chavis said in a statement. “LSU is a great place.”
Chavis was not available for further comment.
Georgia has been aiming high for a veteran defensive coordinator. Foster has been Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator for 15 years, and Chavis also has held the position in the SEC for 15 years, 14 at Tennessee and one at LSU.
Foster reportedly made $402,000 and Chavis $450,000, plus bonuses, in 2009. To keep Foster, Virginia Tech added an annuity to his contract that will pay him a lump sum, reportedly as much as $1 million, if he remains at the school another five years. And to keep Chavis, LSU gave him a raise competitive with what Georgia was offering, Alleva told Gannett.
A third coach, Vic Koenning, acknowledged talking to Georgia about its defensive-coordinator position before leaving Kansas State to accept the DC job at Illinois. Koenning apparently was not offered the Georgia position.
Other coaches believed to be on Richt’s radar include Dallas Cowboys defensive-line coach Todd Grantham, a former Virginia Tech assistant, and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former Georgia player who has given no indication that he would leave the Crimson Tide for a coordinator’s job. But there are many other names also circulating in an overactive rumor mill.
“I’m not taking any pleasure at all in what people might be going through out there,” said Richt, referring to fans craving an answer. “All I can say is … when I do have that decision made and it’s ready for public consumption, we’ll let everybody know. My goal is to get the right man for the job.”
Richt had hoped to make a hire by next week because that’s when coaches return to the road visiting recruits. But he raised the possibility Thursday for the first time that the new hire might not be in place before a second recruiting “dead” — non-contact — period is observed for the national coaches’ convention. That “dead” period runs from Jan. 10 through Jan. 14.
“It may not be until after the second ‘dead’ period that we get our new coach and coaches out into the homes,” Richt said. “There will be plenty of times to get into those homes [before national signing day]. I’m just hoping that these young men will continue to be patient and know that my goal is to make a decision that will really affect them throughout their time at Georgia, so I want to make sure that we do the very best job in that regard.”
Richt fired Martinez and two other defensive coaches Dec. 2. He has said the new coordinator will have considerable input into filling the other two positions.