The gloves are off.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did not hold back in his dismissal of Paul Finebaum, the ESPN/SEC Network host, on Thursday night via Twitter.
Harbaugh fired back a day after Finebaum appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and called the Michigan football coach “an evil genius” — last year he called him “the Donald Trump of college football” — but then said Harbaugh’s hiring of Michael Johnson, whose son is the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class — is “cheating.”
In response, Harbaugh took to Twitter and intentionally used a different first name to add to the insult: “Pete Finebaum the unabashed SEC water carrier, really needs to get his facts straight. #AlternativeFacts”
Finebaum first called Harbaugh “an evil genius” and then said he is one of the “smartest people I’ve run into in a long time.”
He said most of what Harbaugh has done is genius, but took exception to the hiring of Johnson, who has a coaching resume that includes working as the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator and was the San Diego Chargers’ quarterbacks coach when Harbaugh played there.
“This is wrong,” Finebaum said. “It may not be illegal by NCAA standards and bylaws, but to me it’s cheating. Its blatantly disregarding the spirit of the NCAA rule. We all know why he’s doing it. I know he won’t be penalized for it, but he’s cheating. There’s no other reason he would have hired this man. It’s been done in the past, but it’s still wrong.”
Finebaum said the practice is “unethical.”
In an interview a year ago with The Detroit News, Finebaum said he found Harbaugh to be fascinating and a game-changer.
“You’re not going to hurt Jim Harbaugh by throwing stones at him,” Finebaum told The News last February. “He’s going to get the last laugh. He’s on Twitter and he’s having fun with it. The guy has a sense of humor and most coaches do not. Most are difficult, if not tedious.
“Let me make it clear — I’m not attacking him. I’m praising him. I was on ‘SportsCenter’ after Signing Day (2016), I was praising him and the anchor said, ‘You’ve become the biggest Harbaugh sycophant in the south.’ I’ve done this a long time. I’ve heard all of the coachspeak I can possibly listen to. I genuinely believe he’s one of the brightest figures to come down the pike in a while, and he’s a breath of fresh air and there aren’t many of them out there.”
Finebaum kept the banter going Friday, renaming his show "The Pete Finebaum Show" in reference to Harbaugh getting his first name wrong.
Two months later, Finebaum had changed his tune after Harbaugh criticized the NCAA for a “knee-jerk” reaction to ban satellite camps — the ban was reversed later in April last year and the camps were allowed — and then criticized coaching colleague Huge Freeze of Ole Miss for not wanting to “work harder” and participate in an extensive summer camp tour.
“So once again, Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football,” Finebaum said on his show in April 2016. “I think he has been an entertaining entrant to college football since he arrived in Michigan a year and a half ago. Entertaining. That was then. I find him growingly and increasingly annoying now.
“Jim Harbaugh is all about Jim Harbaugh, and that’s fine, but I think it’s finally caught up to him and I think he has gone from the most entertaining person in college football to the most annoying. And I, for one, am really getting sick of him.”
This certainly isn’t the end of the Harbaugh-Finebaum “feud.” Stay tuned.