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Mark Richt out at Georgia could have big effect on South Carolina coaching search

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The Bulldogs are expected to make a major play for Alabama DC Kirby Smart with Richt's departure.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

With today's news that Mark Richt has been fired will step down as Georgia head football coach after fifteen seasons, Gamecocks fans may be bracing for the possibility that the apparent front runner for the South Carolina gig - now reportedly Kirby Smart, but who knows because we've heard a thousand different things in the past few weeks - could be atop the list in Athens. And there's no reason, financial or otherwise, to think that they wouldn't land him if they wanted to, especially since Smart is an alumni and knows the lay of the land there better than any potential candidate that's being floated right now.

Where does that leave South Carolina? First off, a reminder of the timeline: Ray Tanner has said that he wants to have a new coach in place by early December. Assuming that Smart is off the table, and since Justin Fuente has been snapped up by Virginia Tech, that leaves Tanner in a little bind. His presumed leading candidate, Houston's Tom Herman, is (reportedly) no longer in the running (depending on who you want to believe). My thinking is that there's still a possibility that Herman can come back into the picture. With Tanner needing to make a decision quickly, and with a long time period between Saturday and the bowl season beginning, that gives him plenty of opportunity to sell the South Carolina job, unless Herman decides to take Houston's offer or put out feelers for the Georgia post. (He already reportedly is, but proceed with caution, because, you know, #sources.) Again, possible that he comes back into the picture, and it wouldn't surprise me, but probably not.

Of course, a big storyline to watch is Richt himself taking the reins in Columbia. Richt obviously knows the division and has had a strong record of recruiting, and given a chance to kickstart a program that has declined over the past couple of years, my feeling is that he could do quite well. And he has a decade and a half of head coaching experience. (Here's my "crazy scenario" from earlier this month that isn't looking as crazy now.) One hangup is that he has been given the opportunity to remain with Georgia through their bowl game before stepping aside fully and taking another post in the athletic department. However, if Tanner is able to convince Richt to make the trek east, the likelihood of him giving a "Thanks, but no thanks" to his soon-to-be former employer isn't out of the question.

There's still a lot of variables to be sorted out in this whole situation, and many moving parts that continue to affect the process. We'll know sooner or later, but Tanner and the university would do well to make a quick, but calculated decision as to who their next head coach will be.

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