What Dawg Nation reported last week become official Sunday: Alabama defensive coordinator and UGA graduate Kirby Smart will replace Mark Richt as the 26th head coach of the Bulldogs.
The school announced the news after several reports surfaced throughout the past week linking Smart with his alma mater’s coaching vacancy. Then on Saturday night, Alabama players confirmed both the hire and Smart’s plan to remain with the team through the postseason to SEC Country.
“It was critical to identify a person who would focus on a specific, defined process of developing championship football teams on and off the playing field,” athletic director Greg McGarity said in the school’s official release. “Someone who understands the true meaning of a student-athlete by actually experiencing it himself — someone who competed at the highest levels on the playing field, was mentored by some of the very best in the game, and understood the specific ingredients necessary to excel at the highest levels of college athletics — Kirby Smart fits that profile. I believe Kirby Smart is the perfect fit for the University of Georgia.”
Smart, who grew up in Bainbridge, Ga., played for the Bulldogs from 1995-98 before serving as a graduate assistant in 1999 and as running backs coach in 2005. He spent the past nine seasons as an assistant on Nick Saban’s coaching staff at Alabama, eight of which were devoted to defensive coordinator duties. The Crimson Tide finished with a top-10 scoring defense in every one of those seasons and fielded the nation’s No. 1 overall unit during national championship runs in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s an honor and privilege to return home to the University of Georgia and my home state,” Smart said in the release. “I’m deeply appreciative of the faith President Morehead, Greg McGarity, and the Athletic Board Executive Committee have demonstrated in asking me to lead one of the truly great college football programs in the country. I also want to thank Coach Saban. I have been fortunate to spend 11 seasons with him as my mentor and have learned a tremendous amount from him as a coach and teacher. I’m honored and excited for the opportunity at Georgia and promise high energy, effort every day, and hard work every minute on the part of all our coaches, staff and student-athletes.”