ATLANTA — Georgia’s coaching search could be headed for a swift end, but the school was tight-lipped Wednesday about its progress and scheduled no announcement about who would succeed football coach Mark Richt.
ESPN and the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was Georgia’s selection late Tuesday night. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity did not reply to an interview request from The Associated Press on the status of the search. Smart’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, could not be reached for comment.
McGarity on Monday described the search to replace Richt as “wide open.” Smart is widely considered the leading candidate.
Georgia announced abruptly Sunday that Richt will not return as its football coach. Richt, who coached for 15 years, will lead the team in its bowl game following a 9-3 finish to the regular season.
Alabama coach Nick Saban had said over the weekend he didn’t expect any school to contact Smart until after the Crimson Tide’s game against Florida on Saturday in the SEC championship.
Smart, 39, has a background that should be appealing to Georgia fans. Smart, who grew up in Bainbridge, Georgia, was a four-year letterman as a safety at Georgia from 1995-98. He was an administrative assistant at Georgia in 1999 before returning as running backs coach under Richt for one season in 2005.
Smart was hired by Alabama in 2007 and has been defensive coordinator since 2008.
Alabama and Smart will be in Atlanta to play Florida in Saturday’s SEC championship game. An official announcement from Georgia could come quickly after the game.
Saban has described Smart as “a good teacher” and said “players respond to him well.”
“He’s outgoing, he’s got a good personality, I think he’ll do a good job in all of the other areas that you’re talking about,” Saban said. “I don’t have any question about that at all.”
Smart would be the latest in Georgia’s tradition of hiring candidates with no experience as a head coach. Vince Dooley, Ray Goff and Richt were assistants when named Georgia’s head coach. The lone recent exception to that trend was Jim Donnan, who was Marshall’s coach when hired to replace Goff following the 1995 season. Richt replaced Donnan before the 2001 season.