Josh Kendall

Tanner on USC, UGA and Kirby Smart: 'I don't think that's exactly how it played out'

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp and Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart meet at midfield after Georgia defeated South Carolina 24-10.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp and Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart meet at midfield after Georgia defeated South Carolina 24-10. tdominick@thestate.com

History and timing being what they are, South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp and Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart will forever be linked.

Muschamp and Smart were teammates at Georgia and then were on the coaching staff together at Valdosta State before they both served as defensive coordinator under Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Both also got their current jobs in 2015, and both were targets in South Carolina’s coaching search.

In fact, there’s always been the thought in some circles that Georgia accelerated its search to hire Smart before the Gamecocks could make an offer. Smart was announced as the Bulldogs new coach on Dec. 6, 2015. Muschamp was introduced as South Carolina’s coach on the same day.

This week at the SEC’s annual spring meeting, Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner addressed the idea that Georgia “stole” Smart from South Carolina.

“I don’t think that’s exactly how it played out,” he said. “I think we had zeroed in on all the best coaches we could at that time. He was a guy that everybody thought highly of, but he was one of many who was on our list at the time.”

Muschamp is 15-11 overall and 8-8 in the SEC in two years at South Carolina. Smart is 21-7 at Georgia and led the Bulldogs to the national title game last year.

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