Now, just eight weeks before the Bulldogs are tentatively slated to begin preseason practices, the football coach’s three-year extension was finalized Thursday with big changes to his buyout terms.
Athletic director Greg McGarity also is getting a raise and a two-year extension to take his contract through the end of 2017.
That was somewhat unexpected, but even more surprising was the news that Richt won’t have to pay anything to Georgia if he leaves during the length of the contract that runs through Dec. 31, 2016, after that buyout clause was completely removed. If Richt had left after this season in the old deal, he would have owed a minimum of $2 million.
The money Georgia will owe Richt if it fires him without cause also will decrease during the length of the deal. It’s $4.8 million if he is fired after the 2012 season, but that number decreases to $2.4 million after the 2013 season, to $1.6 million after the 2014 season and $800,000 after the 2015 season.
“There’s no question that Mark Richt wants to be at the University of Georgia,” McGarity said. “He and I are in a great place. This is a very positive deal. ... I don’t want anybody to read anything into that other than it’s all good on both sides of the ledger here.”
Both deals were approved by the executive committee of the UGA Athletic Association board.
McGarity will get a $40,000 raise to $500,000 that increases to $550,000 in July 2013.
“I just felt like it was important for the benefit of the Athletic Association and the university that we get him locked in at a time that was slightly longer than the head football coach,” UGA president Michael Adams said. “That would well position the university for any changes that might take place in the future.”
Richt will make a guaranteed $2,811,340 a year under his new deal, which is just about what he was making previously. His deal runs through the 2016 season as previously announced.
Richt said not having to pay anything if he were to leave Georgia wasn’t his idea.
“I think it’s Greg’s philosophy on the contract,” Richt said. “It’s not something that I was asking for. It was something that he suggested and I said that would be fine. I think the bottom line for me, gosh, I think I’ve been here long enough for everybody to understand ... that Georgia’s my home. Georgia’s where I want to be. Georgia’s the only job I want.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban also does not have any buyout if he were to leave.
“At the end of the day, I’ve always believed that money should not be a determining factor that people stay,” McGarity said. “I’ve just felt like that shouldn’t really be an anchor around anybody’s neck. Life’s too short. If someone wants to move on, I have no problem with that. This sort of allows people to do what they really want to do.”
Richt mentioned that his parents, brother and two sisters all live in Athens.
“This is my home,” he said.
Only five coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision have more longevity at their current job than Richt, who is entering his 12th season.
“Mark’s comfortable with it, we’re comfortable with it and we march on,” McGarity said.
“I’m glad it’s done,” Richt said. “I’m very happy with it.”
Laughing later about the lengthy negotiations, he said: “If you asked me when we started, I couldn’t have told you.”
Richt said the contract length and buyout terms were agreed upon early, but it took awhile to finalize the language. McGarity said by the end of January the major points were complete.
“Everybody’s got to have peace,” Richt said. “Both parties were very confident that we wanted to continue this relationship.”
Richt said a celebratory meal is planned at some time with basketball coach Mark Fox at Waffle House.
The maximum performance bonuses, as previously announced, in Richt’s contract double from $400,000 to $800,000.
Richt will receive $150,000 for winning the SEC East or $200,000 for the SEC title; $100,000 for reaching the Capital One Bowl; $75,000 for the Outback, Cotton or Chick-fil-A; $50,000 for the Music City, Liberty or Independence; $200,000 for appearing in a BCS bowl; $300,000 for appearing in BCS title game or $500,000 for winning BCS title and $100,000 for a top-five finish in the AP or coaches’ poll.
Richt said similar increases in performance bonuses could be in the works for his assistants as well.
The changes in the buyout terms were the only revelations in the 31-page document that McGarity termed “really a brand new contract.”
Richt’s longevity bonuses that were already part of his total annual compensation will now be paid each year instead of held for later. Richt had accrued $2.28 million in his previous contract that will be paid in December 2013 due to tax issues.
This is the first change to Richt’s contract since March 2008 after Georgia won the Sugar Bowl and finished ranked No. 2 in the nation. He got an $800,000 raise then.
While Richt and Georgia seemed to take a long time to complete this deal, the six months to hammer out final details is the same length of time it took in 2006 after Richt and Georgia had agreed to an eight-year deal.
His job status this time flipped from the start of the school year when the athletic board met.
Two members of the board last September voiced concern about the state of the program when a 35-21 loss to Boise State to open the 2011 season followed a 6-7 season the previous year.
Georgia lost again the next day to South Carolina, but the team rebounded by winning 10 straight games and reached the SEC championship for the first time since 2005.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s contract terms — he’s getting a boost to his $750,000 salary and two years added to his deal to run through 2014 — will be revealed today.
McGarity was the 10th-highest paid AD in the SEC, according to a USA Today salary survey last year. He was hired in August of 2010.
“It’s reassuring to know that the president and the board feel confident in the direction we’re moving as a staff,” said McGarity, who said he was approached about the extension.
McGarity made changes atop the gymnastics and women’s golf program this spring.
“He’s had two years here now,” Adams said. “He’s shown extraordinary leadership. He’s widely respected already among the other ADs in the conference. I’ve watched him make some tough personnel decisions this spring and have been impressed with how he has handled that as well as the negotiations with the football coach.”