Muschamp’s firing by South Carolina pits Kirby Smart vs. pal Mike Bobo

Georgia coach Kirby Smart (left) and South Carolina  coach Will Muschamp shake hands after South Carolina defeat the Georgia in double overtime during a NCAA college football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Oct. 12.  They were teammates at Georgia in the 1990s and coached together on Valdosta State's staff in 2000.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia coach Kirby Smart (left) and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp shake hands after South Carolina defeat the Georgia in double overtime during a NCAA college football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Oct. 12. They were teammates at Georgia in the 1990s and coached together on Valdosta State's staff in 2000. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

ATHENS — Coaching changes always have a reverberative effect whenever they come. But a midseason firing by a division rival during a pandemic is a real attention-getter.

That certainly was the case for Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who learned Sunday that his longtime friend and former teammate Will Muschamp had been dismissed as head coach at South Carolina. What’s more, Mike Bobo, another buddy and UGA teammate, was named the Gamecocks’ interim head coach.

“It’s a part of our business,” Smart said Monday. “They both know that and understand that. I respect both of them as coaches and as friends. They know as well as I do that when you get into this profession, that’s a possibility that this happens.”

ExploreMark Bradley: Muschamp ended up at South Carolina thanks to UGA

This one, though, strikes closer to home than most for Smart. Muschamp (UGA 1994) is credited for getting Smart (UGA ’98) his first job in college coaching. Muschamp was defensive coordinator at Valdosta State in 2000 when Smart was hired as defensive backs coach.

Later, they’d both end up on Nick Saban’s staff at LSU, then Smart followed Muschamp as one of Saban’s defensive backfield coaches with the Miami Dolphins.

Smart and Bobo (UGA ’97) are even closer. While Smart and Muschamp played only one season together at Georgia, he and Bobo were together for four years in Athens. And they knew each other well before that as sons of coaches at rival high schools in Bainbridge and Thomasville.

Bobo and Smart coached together for one year at Georgia (2005) when Smart was the running backs coach and Bobo the quarterbacks coach. But they haven’t been on the same staff since.

Smart admitted that he spoke to Bobo after Bobo was fired as Colorado State’s head coach last December. But Smart would never specify if it was about a position on Georgia’s staff. At the time, the Bulldogs did not have an opening for a full-time assistant other than offensive line. Muschamp announced Bobo’s hire as South Carolina’s offensive coordinator on Dec. 10.

Smart hired Todd Monken as Georgia’s new offensive coordinator in January.

The timing of the Gamecocks' moves pits Smart against Bobo as head coaches for the first time in their careers. It’s not something Smart wanted to spend even a second thinking about on Monday.

“It’s not for me to decide,” he snapped. “I’m worried about Mississippi State.”

What happens this offseason regarding the Gamecocks' staff is going to be intriguing though. As might be expected with a UGA alum in charge, there are a lot of Georgia connections on Muschamp’s staff that might be looking for work. Among them are wide receivers coach Joe Cox and director of football operations George Wynn, both UGA football lettermen, as well as former Bulldogs' defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.

As for Muschamp, it’s unlikely that he would join Georgia’s staff. Not only has he been a head coach now for nine of the last 10 years, but he also will be the beneficiary of $13.7 million buyout from South Carolina.

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