The gloves appear to be off in one of college football’s storied rivalries.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has masterfully used Twitter to zing opposing coaches, on Tuesday night went after Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.
Earlier in the day Smith took a shallow dig at Michigan when asked by local reporters whether the Ohio State program would consider taking its football team on the road for spring practice, as Harbaugh did with the Wolverines.
“If we were jump starting our program I’d probably try to do that too, but we’re not jump starting our program,” Smith said in a story reported by ElevenWarriors.com. “We’re at a different place.”
Michigan had slumped the last several seasons before Harbaugh arrived to revive the Michigan program and lead the Wolverines to a 10-3 season, which included a loss to Ohio State, last fall. Ohio State won the 2014 national championship.
Harbaugh, who during his playing days as Michigan’s quarterback guaranteed a victory over Ohio State in 1986, took his shot on Twitter a few hours after Michigan concluded practice.
“Good to see Director Smith being relevant again after the tattoo fiasco. Welcome back!”
Harbaugh was making a not-so-subtle reference to Ohio State’s one-year bowl ban and assorted penalties that were announced at the end of 2011 for violations stemming from eight OSU players taking a total of $14,000 in cash and tattoos in exchange for jerseys and assorted Ohio State memorabilia.
Then-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was informed of the violations in April, 2010, but didn’t tell anyone. Among the players involved was starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Smith, in his comments Tuesday, echoed remarks made last week by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, saying he does not want to take spring break away from players. Michigan practiced four times over spring break at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Smith issued an apology in two tweets on Wednesday morning, also mentioning his friendship with new Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel.
Harbaugh has been criticized for the trip by the SEC and ACC commissioners. Michigan players, like tight end Jake Butt, said the trip was ideal for team bonding and for getting in football work.
“I think it’s a creative idea and I understand that, but I would not be supportive of taking away student athletes free time to go to practice,” Smith told the website. “We’re talking about spring practice. The reality is I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t support taking that time away from our student athletes.”
Last weekend Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he might look into a spring practice trip, but he clarified his comments on Tuesday.
“I can’t see taking spring break away from the players,” Meyer told reporters. “That doesn’t mean we won’t research and keep our eye on it. It’s funny how – someone said, ‘Boy, I saw in the paper you guys are going to Florida.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’
“Someone stuck a microphone in my face, and I said, ‘We look into everything.’”
Meyer had told a television reporter during the Tim Tebow golf outing last weekend he would look into a similar trip.
“I think it’s creative,” Meyer had said. “I’m looking into it for next year and maybe the future, too. It’s creative, and if it’s good for the players, we’ll probably do it.”
Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott replied to Harbaugh's tweet, which prompted quite a few of Michigan-Ohio State fan responses.