Jim Harbaugh is quickly becoming the biggest troll on college football Twitter, for better or for worse. In his most recent Twitter shot, he called out Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith for what he took to be a slight to his program.
Here are two perspectives to Harbaugh's actions.
College football would be better if more coaches talked rivalry smack like Jim Harbaugh
by Kevin Trahan
Jim Harbaugh's terrific responses to coaches and others in college sports who question his methods have gotten even more intense in recent months.
His latest victim wasn't ready for the heat. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith commented that Harbaugh's Florida spring practice is good for "jump starting" a program.
Ohio State AD Gene Smith on holding spring practice in Florida: "If we were jump starting our program, I'd probably try to do that too."— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) March 22, 2016
Here's how noted flamethrower Gene Smith started a word of words with Jim Harbaugh. Throwing elbows, clearly. pic.twitter.com/RBS6OSwgTg— 97.1 The Fan (@971thefan) March 23, 2016
Hey, that sounds like potential rivalry smack talk! That's fun! Then Harbaugh took it to a whole different level.
Good to see Director Smith being relevant again after the tattoo fiasco. Welcome back!— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) March 23, 2016
BOOM! The tattoo fiasco is the NCAA scandal that got Ohio State banned from the postseason for a year, and Smith presided over it as athletic director.
But this is serious college football that is not at all about making jokes about rivals. So rather than hit Harbaugh back, Smith said he wasn't trying to take a shot, and then apologized anyways.
STATEMENT: My comments at a soccer press conference yesterday were not meant to discredit our rival. I apologize to ...— gene smith (@OSU_AD) March 23, 2016
...UM student-athletes & my good friend Warde Manuel. We at OSU look forward to continuing the greatest rivalry in collegiate football.— gene smith (@OSU_AD) March 23, 2016
Boooooooo. Even if Smith wasn't trying to "discredit" Michigan when he said that his rival needs "jump starting," we wish he would have, because that is harmless, rivalry sparring.
College football programs are more than willing to provide GIFs of coaches hitting the dab, but its coaches often steer clear of rivalry hate. It would be better if were willing to strike rivalry chords like Harbaugh.
Let former Ohio State players Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Thomas show you.
@CoachJim4UM Welcome to the big house coach. Better luck next time pic.twitter.com/TKrXfEthH8— EzekielElliott#⃣1⃣5⃣ (@EzekielElliott) March 23, 2016
#shhhh pic.twitter.com/Mrw7RXCAFG— Mike Thomas (@Cantguardmike) March 23, 2016
After Harbaugh hit back, Smith definitely should have taken the opportunity to do the same. Something like, "You mean this tattoo?"
Sports are supposed to be fun, and they are better when you add rivalry smack talk. That's why Harbaugh is so great.
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The Ohio State rebuttal: Jim Harbaugh isn't bad, he's just not that funny
by Luke Zimmermann
Jim Harbaugh's latest barb continues a long trend of upping his q score by doing just about anything necessary, even being aggressively unfunny. Sure, subtweets can be humorous in a vacuum. If you're into "oh snap" reactions, he does do that too.
His most recent contentious tweet, a direct potshot at Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, shouldn't offend Ohio State fans, but rather anyone who enjoys laughing at things online. If he'd made fun of Ohio State's loss to Michigan State, sure okay, maybe. There's potential there. Or perhaps something topical about Ohio State and Michigan's various recruiting battles over the last year and change. Fine.
But stooping to the lows of bad message board users and commenters only legitimizes more low-hanging barbs from the kind of folks with "Michigan fan by the grace of God, now trapped in Ohio" Twitter bios.
Of course, there's no such thing as a perfect arbiter of the comedy stylings of a strange, at-times alienating middle aged man with a whistle. Humor is invariably subjective, and Harbaugh's latest perform storm of bad Internet might be exactly your cup of tea.
Harbaugh knows the ground he has to gain on his two main Big Ten rivals, teams that have played in each of the first two College Football Playoffs. Closing that gap is predicated on getting the kind of attention he feels fitting of his program. Any attention is good attention for Harbaugh, and he's played college football Internet, where there tends to be a lot of recruits paying attention, like a fiddle.
It's certainly fine to know that while Harbaugh's Twitter behavior lies somewhere between genius and madness, the early returns on it are promising. And when you live in a consequence-free bubble where you can say or do just about anything and have it benefit you, where's the disincentive to stop?
If Harbaugh manages to find a viable quarterback this offseason and then proceeds to navigate a manageable-on-paper schedule en route to a playoff berth of his own, mission accomplished. If he slips up and falls, who cares? He can keep saying and doing just about anything, as long as it helps further his cause.