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UGA offers job to Smart

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In the aftermath of Alabama's national championship, Georgia has redoubled its efforts to snag the Crimson Tide's top defensive assistant.

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, this season's Broyles Award winner as the nation's top assistant, is considering a lucrative offer to take over the defense at his alma mater. Multiple sources told the Press-Register that Georgia could be willing to at least double the $360,000 base salary Smart earned this past season at Alabama.

Smart, 34, may not be the only Alabama assistant in play for jobs in the coming days. Unconfirmed speculation Saturday was that former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville may be interested in bringing former Auburn assistant and current Alabama inside linebackers coach James Willis onto his new staff at Texas Tech.

An industry source said Saturday he did not think the Willis move would happen. But sources have maintained for the duration of UGA's search that Smart and his family are happy at Alabama and not pursuing a move back to Athens.

Georgia had at least informally gauged Smart's interest about the current opening prior to the past two days. The Bulldogs' latest effort is thought to entail significantly more money. Earlier attempts were rebuffed as the Crimson Tide prepared to play Texas, though Smart was willing to at least listen to a formal offer after the game.

Smart said before the BCS title game that he had not received a formal offer from Georgia coach Mark Richt but that "It's been great having these players and doing this (at Alabama), and I'm looking forward to it next year."

"My lifelong goal was to ultimately be a defensive coordinator," Smart said last week in California, "and if I ever got a chance at a head job, that would be great. But that's not something that I'm going to draw my career and say I was a failure, I didn't get to be a head coach or whatever. I'd be completely content with that. If a better opportunity presents itself, then obviously that's something down the road. But young as I am, I'm happy to be where I'm at and happy to be at the University of Alabama."

Smart is a native of Bainbridge and was a defensive back at UGA from 1995-98. He is also married to Mary Beth Lycett, a former UGA basketball player. Smart spent the 1999 season as an administrative assistant at UGA and the 2005 season as running backs coach.

But he left Richt's staff after one year to join Nick Saban in Miami, saying at the time, "after weighing all the factors, it's a career move that I feel I need to make."

Saban hired Smart onto his staff at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and immediately at Alabama, where Smart has served as defensive coordinator the past two seasons. Saban said Friday that he would always support an assistant leaving for a promotion but not if he makes a lateral move.

"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 that really aren't in your best interest from a career standpoint."

"So I'm not happy when guys do that. But anybody on our staff who can move up, we would like to help them do that."

Raises have long been expected for Alabama's assistants for this season's success, though it's unlikely that Saban would wish to deviate significantly from a relatively even salary structure for all his position coaches.

Smart is not the best-paid assistant on Saban's staff. That distinction belongs to offensive line coach Joe Pendry, who earned a $390,000 salary this season.

All Crimson Tide assistants were contractually obligated to receive a 20 percent bonus for winning the SEC title and reaching a BCS bowl game, which would push Smart's total for this season to at least $432,000. Smart is under contract through 2012, a deal that called for his base salary to increase to $390,000 next season and has the same terms as offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.

Efforts to reach Smart were unsuccessful Saturday evening, while his father Sonny Smart respectfully declined comment on the situation, saying that information would have to be obtained "either from Kirby or from Georgia."

Richt's actions of the past few weeks indicated the nothing was imminent with Smart. Richt has reportedly made unsuccessful bids for LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, each of whom elected to stay at his current school.

Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham has also been linked prominently to the search.

Richt has previously said he would like to have a hire in place by the first week in January and recruits have been told to expect an answer to the long-awaited coordinator question by early this week.

Gentry Estes was a sports writer for The Herald from 2002-04.