NCAAF Georgia’s Kirby Smart clarifies ‘I was done’ remark

Georgia coach Kirby Smart insisted Wednesday that his viral comments about nearly quitting 13 months ago were taken out of context.

“I was ready to step down and resign. I was done,” Smart told a group of Texas high school coaches on Tuesday in San Antonio.

The 46-year-old coach of the defending national champion Bulldogs downplayed the significance of those remarks Wednesday at SEC Media Days in Atlanta.

“You guys are searching, boy,” he said. “I tell you what, any material out there is good material.”

Smart said he was talking about the struggle of maintaining a good work/life balance that he experienced in June 2020 following the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think a lot of coaches have a sentiment and feel like last June was probably the toughest time we’ve had,” Smart said Wednesday. “Not this June. That’s a common mistake with that comment because it was very different. Last June was the first time in over 14, 15, 16 months that kids had been to campus. A lot of our coaches and a lot of coaches in the profession, it was just unrealistic because they had things called OCEs. On campus evaluations, which allowed you to work out at any time they wanted to work out.

“Nobody really talked about it much, but a lot of their Texas coaches knew about it. They asked specifically about that and so when I said it, I said it wore us out. We were all done. So nothing much meant by it. Just frustrated with how it was and happy with the way it was this June because this June I wouldn’t say was much easier, but it was much better. We were much better prepared to handle it because there weren’t as many kids coming.”

During his time on the dais, Smart was also asked about his ongoing salary talks and the controversy over name, image and likeness deals.

In his sixth season in Athens in 2021, Smart guided Georgia to a 14-1 record and a 33-18 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game for the Bulldogs’ first championship since the 1980 season.

Smart is 66-15 overall and 6-2 in bowl games since taking the reins in Georgia. After making more than $7 million last season, Smart and his agent are reportedly finalizing a significant salary hike. He said he isn’t worried about when the deal gets done.

“I think people think it’s just a number and a year, but there’s so much more that goes into it,” he said. “There’s so much more of a contract that have to be spelled out correctly on both sides and we’re trying to make sure we do that.

“… I’m not concerned at all about it. They have been tremendous with their communication and I’m completely comfortable with where everything is. Both sides have worked really hard at getting things done and things have been great. I cannot say more with what they’ve been willing to do and the communication that we’ve had. It’s just not as easy as you think it is.”

Regarding NIL deals, Smart declined to divulge the dollar amount his players have received. Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday that his guys earned more than $3 million in the first year of the NIL era.

“I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t even want to do that because I feel like that’d be copy catting and carrying over,” he said. “Trust me, there’s a lot there. … We arguably had the highest paid defensive lineman, highest paid tight end and highest paid cornerback in the NIL market. Because after the national championship, those three guys exploded, one talking about (defensive tackle) Jordan Davis and the other two are obvious (tight end Brock Bowers and cornerback Kelee Ringo). When you look at that, it’s pretty substantial that we have depth in our NIL market.”

Smart also provided a few injury updates, including for Bowers. He is ready for the start of practice in August after undergoing offseason labrum surgery. Linebackers Smael Mondon and C.J. Madden and defensive lineman Bear Alexander are also recovered from shoulder issues. Guard Tate Rutledge, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in last season’s opener, is also taking reps.

The Bulldogs open the season against Oregon in the Sept. 3 Chick-fil-A Kickoff at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

–Field Level Media

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