Kirby Smart already has an impressive pitch for potential incoming athletes.
The two-time defending SEC Coach of the Year has dethroned Nick Saban and lifted the Georgia Bulldogs to their first national championships since 1980, plus a second consecutive last season in a manhandling of TCU.
By now, you’d think NIL is only an added luxury that has led Smart to attain a top five recruitment class each of the last three years, with 2024 and 2025 currently ranking Georgia at No. 1 with eight five-star recruits on the way according to 247Sports.
However, Smart is embracing NIL for a different reason.
“I certainly think [NIL] puts a premium on all players that don’t require all the NIL,” Smart said on ESPN’s The Paul Finebaum Show on Tuesday. “Meaning a kid that says I want to come to your university because I want to win a championship. There’s a value in that. I want to come because you’re going to give a great education, you’re going to develop me into an NFL player. Not just because of NIL.”
“It has given kids an opportunity to put some money away and get financial advice. But it’s not good when they’re choosing why they go to school,” Smart said.
While NIL may play a factor in the future, Smart said the success Georgia had in 2021, when NIL was first introduced, played no factor in the team’s ability to win the national championship, being that athletes were not recruited with the promises of NIL.
“Those kids had all worked really hard without NIL. The Jordan Davis’, Nakobe Dean’s, James Cook’s. They came without that and they worked and achieved and got better,” Smart said.
Because of NIL, Smart hasn’t become naive to the reality it has presented. He told Finebaum that in the future, even some can’t-miss prospects may lack what it takes to succeed at the next level — lacking the hunger to be great.
“I don’t know if we’re going to see that same growth, that same hunger. Because some of these kids are coming into a situation where they think they’ve already made it and they’re getting passed by by somebody hungrier than them. I don’t know.”
Since NIL’s introduction, Georgia is the only school to have hoisted the national championship. And even if a three-peat sounds like a reality, for now, Smart is just concerned about winning Week 1.