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Jim Harbaugh: Paul Finebaum wants to see me fail

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh felt his character was impugned by SEC Network radio host Paul Finebaum, hence his Tweet last week referring to him as “Pete” Finebaum.

Finebaum last week appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and called Harbaugh “an evil genius” but then said Harbaugh’s reported hiring of Michael Johnson, whose son is the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class – is “cheating.” The hiring ultimately did not go through.

Harbaugh in response tweeted: “Pete Finebaum the unabashed SEC water carrier, really needs to get his facts straight. #AlternativeFacts”

During a podcast interview, posted Thursday, with Tim Kawakami, the San Jose Mercury columnist who covered Harbaugh when he was coaching the 49ers, Harbaugh was asked if he was annoyed by Finebaum’s comment. Harbaugh laughed at the onset as he answered.

“Well, you try to take it with a grain of salt, as they say, and put some humor into it,” Harbaugh said on the podcast. “The annoying part is people who show their true colors and try to impugn your integrity where you’ve done nothing wrong. They want to impugn your integrity. They want to see you fail. They want to take shots at you.

“As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. You’re doing a good deed. You’re hiring somebody and where do they go from there? Right to impugning your integrity by calling you a cheater. The response is take it with a grain of salt and have some humor about it. But come on man, I’m just not going to let that go, either.”

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Kawakami pointed out that Harbaugh has taken on a number of SEC coaches via Twitter.

“It hasn’t been any conscious act or target,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been responses. Like the great Sugar Ray Robinson, he was a great counter-puncher. That’s been my philosophy with them. They’ve attacked us numerous times and we just counterpunched them. We have not been the aggressor toward anybody when it comes to shooting one over another person’s bow. They’ve shot some over our bow and we’ve shot back in Sugar Ray Robinson fashion.”

It was suggested that Harbaugh doesn’t mind this type of sparring.

“It keeps you on your toes,” he said. “It’s life happening. It’s very competitive and very good that way. Mainly, though, we’re taking it with a grain of salt and humor and concentrating on what’s really important, and that’s putting the college back in college football. The student back in student-athletes.

“What’s really important? That’s really important to us. I believe our coaches, our administration, our athletic director, our president, we’re all on the same page, and that is the most important thing we do in nurturing these young guys and get them to the point they can be the head of their own household and have tools and training to do that.”

Finebaum, on his show Thursday, played the audio of Harbaugh talking about him.

"I wish the guy would just quit talking about me," Finebaum said. "I'm tired of answering questions about it. ... Jim, coach your team, OK. I mean, quit choking away games at the end of the season like you did last year, three out of the last four. Come on. I’m busy. I’ve got a job.”