ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Georgia will owe Mark Richt less money if he’s let go after the 2013 season and beyond.
And if Richt leaves now, he wouldn’t owe UGA anything at all.
Such loosened ties on both ends were the highlights of the new buyout section of Richt’s new contract, which was approved Thursday by the executive committee of the UGA Athletic Board and subsequently released to the media after more than six months of discussions.
UGA athletics director Greg McGarity said terms were essentially agreed on in January between parties, but discussions since then have involved “semantics.”
“This is a very positive deal,” McGarity said Thursday. “It's something that we all feel good about moving forward. I don't want anybody to read anything into that other than it's all good on both sides of the ledger here.”
Richt’s new deal is a three-year extension lasting through the end of the 2016 season.
There essentially was no raise – leaving Richt’s salary at $2,811,340 -- other than the majority of his performance bonuses were doubled, increasing the max annual performance bonus he could receive from $400,000 to $800,000.
Yet one of the major changes is that the new contract lowers the buyout to be paid to Richt if he's fired after the 2012 season. From UGA's standpoint, the school would owe Richt $4.8 million for firing him after this upcoming season. That figure drops to a total of $2.4 million after the 2013 season and then would decrease $800,000 annually each of the following two years of the contract.
Meanwhile, UGA completely removed a section of the previous contract that would have required Richt to pay the university a minimum of $2 million if he chose to leave on his own.
Greg McGarity also received a raise and contract extension Thursday.
But as it stands now, Richt could leave UGA and not pay anything, which is a contract feature that matches some other prominent head coaches, most notably Alabama’s Nick Saban.
"It's Greg's philosophy on the contract. It was not something that I was asking for. It was something that he had suggested, and I said, 'That'd be fine,'" Richt said. "I think bottom line is for me, gosh, I think I've been here long enough for everybody to understand. ... Georgia is my home. Georgia is where I want to be. Georgia is the only job I want, the only job I have ever wanted as a head coach. That's just the way it's been from the very beginning, and that hasn't changed.
"My mom, my dad, my brother, my two sisters, they all live in Athens. I mean, this is my home. This is where I want to be. So that hasn't changed one bit."
McGarity acknowledged “give and take in all contracts,” but stressed that “I don’t think there’s anything negative here at all.”
“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 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. There's no question Mark Richt wants to be at the University of Georgia. I can guarantee you that. He and I are in a good place here.”
Performance bonuses for Richt are now for winning the SEC East ($150,000) or the SEC ($200,000); Participation in a Tier 1, 2 or 3 non-BCS bowl game ($50,000-$100,000), BCS bowl appearance ($200,000), appearance in a BCS championship game ($300,000) or national title ($500,000) and a top five finish in AP or coaches poll ($100,000).
Richt said similar increases in performance bonuses could be in the works for his assistant coaches as well.
"Greg and I have talked about that," Richt said.
Another change in the new deal is that Richt’s salary now will be paid in the full amount listed rather than doled out in longevity bonuses that marked his previous contract. Along those lines, UGA has already set aside and will pay $2.28 million in a longevity bonus that was promised through Richt’s previous contract.
While McGarity said UGA would have wanted to pay that amount now, tax implications demanded that the payment be “parked” until Dec. 2013.
“This is the agreement that was reached,” McGarity said. “Mark’s comfortable with it. We’re comfortable with it. And we march on.”
Richt joked that Mark Fox had promised that Richt could take him out to dinner at Waffle House once the deal was finalized.
"If Georgia wants to extend my contract, I'm excited about that," Richt said. "I don't want to have to ask for an extension. I don't want to have to ask for a raise. If Georgia wants me to stay, that's where I want to be. If Georgia wants to give me a raise, then I'm fired up about that. If Georgia wants to double my incentives for excellence, I'm fine with that too.
"I feel like a very blessed man to be at Georgia and to have an opportunity to continue to coach these young men and work with the staff we've put together and our athletic administration and educational administration and President (Michael) Adams. I'm just thankful and proud to be a Bulldog."
*** In addition to Richt’s deal, the UGA Athletic Board approved an extension Thursday for McGarity, whose contract will now run through Dec. 31, 2017.
McGarity’s salary will increase from $460,000 to $500,000 on July 1, 2012 and $550,000 on July 1, 2013.
UGA president Michael Adams said it was his idea to initiate the contract extension with McGarity.
“He’s had two years here now. He’s shown extraordinary leadership,” Adams said of McGarity. “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.
“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, and that would well-position the University for any Changes that might take place in the future.”
*** McGarity said the contract extension for Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is now in the draft stage and set to be released Friday.
Grantham is expected to receive a raise in addition to a two-year extension already confirmed by UGA.