Some of you will doubtlessly find other sections of this Andy Staples piece on the Sabanization of the Georgia program more interesting, but for me, this is the part that really sticks out:
After the 2015 season, Georgia officials took a big risk: They fired Mark Richt to create an opening for Smart. Richt had gone 145–51 in 15 seasons in Athens, winning two SEC titles. Richt had already lost much of his political capital after a strange choice to start third-string quarterback Faton Bauta against Florida even though neither of his first two quarterbacks were injured. The 27–3 loss to the Gators was bad enough, but Georgia officials decided the Richt era needed to end late in the 2015 season after watching the Bulldogs celebrate an overtime win against Georgia Southern as if they had won the Super Bowl. A few days earlier Saban had delivered a now-infamous rant in which he described an opposing offense as going “through us like s— through a tin horn.” (The team Saban was referring to was, ironically, Georgia Southern). The Georgia brass wanted its program to have a similar attitude. With South Carolina sniffing around Smart while seeking a replacement for Steve Spurrier, Georgia fired Richt after a 13–7 win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 28. Athletic director Greg McGarity signed Smart to a six-year contract a week later.
When Smart accepted the job, McGarity didn’t issue marching orders. He asked questions. What did Smart now need from the administration to build a championship program? “He needed to educate us,” McGarity says, “about what it meant to go big-time.”
“Georgia officials” — plural — drove the change. Greg McGarity needed to be educated. Kirby schooled his bosses.
The rest of us got lucky.