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New Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart staying at Alabama through playoffs
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart speaks during a press conference where he was introduced as Georgia's new head football coach Monday in Athens. - photo by John Bazemore | Associated Press

Kirby Smart will continue in his current role as Alabama’s defensive coordinator through the College Football Playoff as he also begins work as Georgia’s coach.

Smart, the former Georgia player and assistant, returned to his alma mater on Monday for his introductory news conference. He was formally approved as Richt’s successor during a meeting by the Georgia athletic association executive committee on Sunday. He then quickly began meeting with Georgia recruits.

Smart will have about one week for more recruiting and his search for assistants before No. 2 Alabama begins practice for the playoff semifinal against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

If Alabama plays in national championship game on Jan. 11 that could keep Smart from devoting his full attention on Georgia for more than a month.

“First off, both President (Jere) Morehead and (athletic director) Greg (McGarity) were very supportive of me doing this the right way,” Smart said of splitting time between Georgia and Alabama. “It’s very important for me to finish things the right way over there.

“I don’t think it would be doing justice to walk away from those kids. Regulating my time will be very critical in the next month. It will be a challenge, but a challenge I’m up to.”

Smart’s hiring came one week after Mark Richt’s 15-year run as Georgia’s coach ended. Like Smart, Richt also returned to his alma mater when he was hired as Miami’s new coach.

Bryan McClendon, who was Richt’s assistant head coach and also works with the receivers, will serve as Georgia’s interim head coach for the TaxSlayer Bowl matchup against Penn State in Jacksonville on Jan. 2.

Smart played at Georgia in the 1990s. He was an administrative assistant at Georgia in 1999 before returning as running backs coach under Richt for one season in 2005.

Hired by Alabama in 2007, Smart has been Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator since 2008. Smart, who turns 40 on Dec. 23, was widely expected to be Georgia’s first choice as soon as Richt was fired.

Smart, regarded as one of the top assistants in the country, consistently kept Alabama’s defense among the top-ranked units in the nation. Led by its defense, Alabama won its second straight Southeastern Conference championship on Saturday night in Atlanta, beating Florida 29-15.

Following the SEC championship game, Smart headed straight to Athens and was interviewed early Sunday by Morehead. The athletic association then ratified Smart, the pick by McGarity.

Smart has agreed to a six-year contract worth at least $3.75 million a year. The base salary is $400,000 and the deal also includes $3.35 million from apparel deals, television and radio appearances, and other endorsements.

He also could earn performance bonuses of up to $1.6 million if the Bulldogs win a national championship. The deal includes other perks, including $1,800 a month to purchase or lease up to two cars and up to $5,000 a year to cover insurance on the vehicles.

If Smart took another job, he would owe the university anywhere from the full value of his deal in the first year to just the current base salary should he depart in Year 6.

Smart was earning $1.5 million per year at Alabama as the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the country.

Richt was 145-51 with two SEC championships in 15 seasons at Georgia. The Bulldogs played in five SEC championship games under Richt.

Only Vince Dooley (201) won more games at Georgia.

As a star defensive back at Georgia, Smart had 13 interceptions, the fourth-most in school history. He led the Bulldogs with six picks in 1997 and five in 1998. He graduated with a degree in finance and added a master’s degree from Florida State in 2003.

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