It still amazes me what a void there was at the top of the athletic department when Smart was hired. They literally had no clue how to build a football program that could compete at the highest level consistently, despite all the resources at their disposal.
Former Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, who hired Smart, said his initial conversations with his new coach weren’t as much about what the Bulldogs needed to do to catch Alabama as what they needed to do to consistently win at the highest level.
“You found out really quickly that he wasn’t doing things for the sake of doing it because someone else has this or someone else has that,” McGarity said. “He wasn’t like, ‘They’ve got X-amount of people at Alabama, so I need X-amount of people at Georgia.’ It was a great learning experience for our administration to understand and then develop trust. He does what he says he’s going to do.
“They’re not just crazy ideas, they’re ideas that are well thought out and when you see it in place, it makes sense. Kirby was very articulate and very intentional. But it was never because someone else had this. It was always, ‘We need this for this reason,’ or ‘This is why I need these people for this reason.’ He had a plan, he executed the plan and so far it’s playing out.”
Shortly after Shane Beamer was hired to join Smart’s staff at Georgia in 2016, he noticed something familiar about the way his new boss was structuring his program.
“We literally implemented everything Alabama did, from the weekly schedule with the coaches to the practice schedule to the weight room program to whatever,” said Beamer, now South Carolina’s head coach. “It was identical. He didn’t have to say, ‘This is what Alabama did.’ You knew it. A lot of stuff we used even had the Alabama logo on it and was copy and pasted with the Georgia logo on it.”
Kirby didn’t do that out of some slavish devotion for all things Nick Saban. As Beamer went on to say,
“Give Kirby credit because as he got more and more comfortable, if there was a better way of doing things he would always listen,” Beamer said. “That was six years ago, and I’m sure now there are things they are doing that are better than Alabama. There were things that we did in Year 2 that were different from Alabama. Alabama came up in the sense that they were the SEC champions, they were the team that was at the top in recruiting year in and year out, so that was who you were chasing.”
He did it because nobody in Butts-Mehre had done the work to build a foundation for the football program. Kirby may have his shortcomings, but there’s no question Georgia football is in a much better place now than he found it.