ATLANTA — After a week of speculation, Kirby Smart’s future was confirmed by his own players.
As Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones put it: “It’s pretty hard to keep secrets around here.”
Jones was one of several players who said that, yes, Smart is the next head coach at Georgia. The Crimson Tide defensive coordinator has been on Nick Saban’s staff since 2007, during which the program completed three title runs, and he will soon be tasked with winning a national championship at his alma mater.
“He’s been working hard here nine, 10 years?” junior linebacker Ryan Anderson said in the locker room following Alabama’s win over Florida in the SEC championship game. “That’s the goal. To be the head man. It’s just like us coming here. We come here, work hard and go on to the next level.”
Smart has a more pressing task at hand, though: Finishing out a championship season with Saban and Alabama.
Multiple players confirmed that Smart will remain on the Crimson Tide staff through the rest of the season, which could last more than a month.
That’s part of the reason players are fine with him skipping town afterward.
“If he didn’t take it, I would’ve been kind of mad at him,” senior defensive back Geno Matias-Smith said. “That’s what he wants.”
The players found out like almost everyone else did: On Twitter after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chip Towers broke the news.
“He was gonna wait until after the season, but after it all came out, we talked to him, had a word, just kept it real with us,” Anderson said.
Saban counseled the younger players afterwards, while the upperclassmen knew it was business as usual in Tuscaloosa.
“We’ve had a lot of coaches go on and become head coaches,” Matias-Smith said. “We knew Coach Smart’s time would come eventually.”