Smoke settles on UM-OSU Twitter spat -- for now

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Ann Arbor — The he said-he said in the great Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry is over.

For now, at least.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, who has been on the job for 10 days, said Thursday that Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith called him to clear the air with regard to a recent situation between the two programs that escalated via Twitter.

“It was a brief conversation, great conversation,” Manuel said Thursday after Michigan announced it will host a Real Madrid-Chelsea international soccer match in July. “We’re (going to) move on.”

Earlier this week, Smith took what was perceived as a dig at Michigan when he responded to a question about whether Ohio State would take its football team on the road for spring practice, as Michigan coach Jim 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.”

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Harbaugh did take a shot on Twitter on Tuesday night 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.

Smith then posted two consecutive Tweets on Wednesday apologizing, saying his comments “were not meant to discredit our rival.” He said he was apologizing to “Michigan student-athletes & my good friend Warde Manuel”.

“He felt it was misconstrued, it wasn’t intended to be that way,” Manuel said, when asked why Smith felt the need to apologize. “He has a great respect for Michigan, we have great respect for Ohio State.

He wanted to let me know it was in no way shape or form the way it was intended to be.

“I had read the full comment and had an opportunity to take a look at that and realized that I don’t think the intent was there at all. I appreciated the call. I’m not a Twitterer, so I appreciate what he did to let that message be known and for him reaching out. We had a great conversation about many other things, as well.”

Manuel said he has spoken to Harbaugh about the flap.

“I did briefly, and literally, briefly,” Manuel said. “It wasn’t something that caused me great concern, and I don’t think it’s something that needs to go beyond what it has been thus far, and I don’t think it will continue not because I’ve placed any edict, I just think it was a one and done on both sides. It’s over.”

He said when he first heard the comment, he didn’t know the context.

“Obviously we don’t believe we’re jump-starting anything in football,” Manuel said. “But in the general context I understood what he was trying to convey. We talked about that briefly and then moved on.”


Twitter @chengelis