ATHENS – They compete in everything: Whether it’s cards, or golf, or even who can get to the store first. Mike Bobo and Kirby Smart are close friends, and intense competitors.
“It never ends pretty,” Bobo said.
So that’s the backdrop on Saturday for what will be a much higher-profile event than who beats who to the gas station: The SEC championship. It’s Georgia, whose offense is coached by Bobo, against Alabama, whose defense is coached by Smart.
Bobo took pains to say this matchup wasn’t about him vs. his friend. Neither of them are playing, he pointed out. But he didn’t pretend the two aren’t tight.
Smart hosted a get-together at his house this past summer, which included Bobo and a bunch of former players. Football wasn’t a major topic, according to Bobo.
“It was more just getting together and hanging out with the kids, having a good time, not a lot of football,” he said.
Bobo and Smart first met when they were both ballboys for their fathers, who were high school football coaches in south Georgia. It was later, when their paths crossed again at the Georgia football program, that they became even closer.
Bobo was a Georgia quarterback from 1993-97, and Smart played defensive back from 1995-98. At one point their was a confluence of future coaches: Will Muschamp was a Georgia safety from 1991-94, and Derek Dooley was a graduate assistant in 1996.
Bobo and Smart remained close as they pursued coaching careers: Smart came back to Georgia briefly to be an assistant, but left for Alabama in 2006.
Bobo said they hardly speak during the season, other than an occasional text to say congrats after a win or a pick-me-up after a loss.
And one subject is off limits.
“We’ve agreed not to talk about recruiting,” Bobo said. “We used to ride around together in the spring when it wasn’t so competitive. And now it’s all moved up in the world where people are committing a lot earlier. So we don’t really talk about recruiting a bunch anymore either.”
You won’t hear Smart’s end of this: Nick Saban prohibits his assistants from speaking to the media. Bobo was asked if makes fun of Smart for that.
“I’m jealous,” Bobo said, then laughed.