Georgia coach Kirby Smart and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp go back a long way and have had shared a few adventures in the coaching racket. Smart was a redshirt freshman at Georgia during Muschamp’s senior season in 1994. Muschamp later hired Smart at Valdosta State, and they coached together under Nick Saban at LSU.
The commentary that has emanated this week in anticipation of Saturday’s game in Columbia has been entertaining, although there’s little question that once they’re on opposite sidelines, their friendship takes a back seat.
“We weren’t that close to each other when we were here,” Smart said Tuesday. “We knew each other, but I was only here for six months while he was here – summer, fall and then he left. Our relationship started at Valdosta State, really, and at LSU.
Smart recalled the new-player hazing he experienced upon his arrival at Georgia, but said Muschamp had no hand in it.
“I got hazed a little bit, but it wasn’t by Will – it was by some other guys,” Smart quipped. “Will was one of the nice guys.”
Muschamp needled the Georgia program Tuesday for not providing a depth chart for Saturday’s game, surmising that Claude Felton, the Bulldogs’ senior associate athletic director for sports communications, must have dropped the ball.
“Maybe Claude Felton’s slipping, I don’t know,” Muschamp said. “I’m sure it didn’t have anything to do with Kirby.”
“He’s good at jokes,” Smart said.
Smart did say, however, that he wouldn’t let the recruiting wars affect a friendship with a colleague.
“If you’re looking at it from a coaching perspective, you can’t do it that way,” Smart said. “… I think in the coaching profession, most coaches have a respect — or at least I have a respect for most coaches — that I’m not gonna let a recruit come between that coach and me. I know that’s part of the business.
“Whether he gets the kid or we get the kid, I’m still gonna be friends with him. I may work on (a) staff with him. I may need a job and he may hire me. I learned that a long time ago, that recruiting does not come between a relationship or a coach, not somebody that’s a true friend.”