(Updated 9:30 p.m.)
Kirby Smart, the defensive coordinator of newly crowned national champion Alabama, apparently is considering a return to Georgia, his alma mater, for the same job but considerably more money.
Smart, seen as a leading candidate for the UGA position since the Dec. 2 firing of Willie Martinez, was weighing a formal offer on Saturday but “has neither signed it nor made a decision regarding the opening,” according to the Tuscaloosa News, which cited “multiple sources.”
Smart has been publicly coy about his interest in the job but left the door open during a press conference in California two days before the national-championship game. He could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Georgia had no comment on the matter other than to say that no announcement of a hire was scheduled. Associate athletics director Claude Felton said he had not heard from coach Mark Richt all day and that no announcement was expected through Saturday night. Felton said Richt had been on the road recruiting.
Smart would be a popular hire in Bulldog Nation. Former UGA defensive great David Pollack posted on his Twitter account Saturday: “From what I am getting guys I think Georgia has made a very SMART choice on their next DC, nothing 100% but def looks good.”
Smart makes about $360,000 in base salary at Alabama. Georgia is believed willing to pay much, much more than that.
All indications are that UGA will make a hire within the next few days. Richt would like to have the new defensive coordinator named before the final recruiting contact period starts Friday. Also, junior linebacker Rennie Curran -– expected by most around the Georgia program to enter the NFL draft –- has been trying to withhold a final decision until he has a chance to talk with the new coordinator.
Smart played defensive back for Georgia from 1995-98, making All-SEC as a senior, and began his coaching career as an administrative assistant at Georgia in 1999. He also coached running backs at UGA in 2005.
For most of his coaching career, Smart has worked under Nick Saban -– at LSU (2004), the Miami Dolphins (2006) and Alabama (since 2007). He has been the Tide’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Saban seemed to be sending a pointed message to Smart on Friday when he said at a news conference that assistant coaches should not make lateral career moves.
“I’m not pleased when guys make lateral moves because it’s a little bit human nature to think, like my dad used to say, the grass is always greener on top of the septic tank,” Saban said. “You always think it’s better someplace else. You kind of let your ego get involved, and you make moves that you shouldn’t make and really aren’t in your best interests for a career standpoint.”
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