What Alabama football's Nick Saban, Georgia's Kirby Smart said about facing off again in CFP championship
INDIANAPOLIS — As Kirby Smart and Nick Saban sat down at adjacent tables for their press conference previewing the College Football Playoff championship, 2017 might have been the last thing Smart wanted to discuss. But he recognized that Alabama football's Saban has influenced how Smart built his successful Georgia program.
"I don't remember much about 2017 anymore," Kirby said when asked about his growth since the year Alabama broke Georgia hearts in an overtime CFP championship classic. "It's amazing how fast these years go by and time goes by. I think I've got a staff of great coaches and I've got an organization that's full of good leaders. And trust in those people maybe more now than in 2017, when I felt like I needed to micromanage and be over-the-top of everything. Probably now a little more comfortable delegating things out and trusting people to do their jobs and maybe imparting a little bit of their personality into their parts of the organization."
Smart is 0-4 against Saban in their clashes as head coaches, a record that will again be on the line Monday (7 p.m., ESPN) when No. 1 Alabama (13-1) and No. 3 Georgia (13-1) rematch for the national title. Despite Smart's struggles to summit the Saban mountain, Georgia has become one of Alabama's most consistent challengers.
"I think the University of Georgia, Kirby's program is probably one of the elite programs in the country," Saban said. "He's done an outstanding job there making that program what it is. And obviously the players and people that are in the organization have made that program what it is. And we certainly feel like this is the best team in the country that we have an opportunity to play."
Smart was an assistant coach for Saban at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and most notably for an eight-year stretch at Alabama as defensive coordinator. At Georgia, Smart said, "as far as the way we organize and run the program, most of that came from my time spent with Coach Saban. There was a year at LSU, a year at the Dolphins. You take a lot of things from the places you come from in your history. That's certainly helped shape me as a coach."