It’s no secret that Jim Harbaugh will mix it up with other coaches, teams, administrators or just about anyone who disagrees with him. For college football fans and media members, this has been great because, in case you haven’t noticed, the off-season can be painfully slow at times. Now, just about anytime Harbaugh hits “Tweet,” we’ve got something to talk about. So remember that the real winner of every Harbaugh Twitter feud is all of us.
Forget about polite discourse; college football is a much more interesting sport when its biggest personalities are bickering. And whether over recruiting tactics or practice locations, Harbaugh is often bickering with someone, typically 140 characters at a time. So in the wake of Harbaugh’s latest repartee with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, here’s a ranking of the Michigan coach’s best Twitter feuds of 2016:
1: Ohio State AD Gene Smith
Harbaugh’s most recent spat was also his best of the year so far.
What makes this one No. 1? The context of the rivalry definitely helps. While Harbaugh may have objected to Smith’s characterization of his work at Michigan as “jump starting” a program, the reality is that the Wolverines have not been on the Buckeyes’ level of late. Harbaugh is changing that, even if his first meeting with Urban Meyer didn’t reflect it. As the results on the field between these two rivals regain national significance, increased off-the-field hostilities only adds to the fun. Both Smith and Harbaugh got solid digs in, too. And Harbaugh’s response even caught the attention of Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller.
This exchange would have been just about perfect had Smith not issued an apology Wednesday. There’s no need to apologize for a harmless, fun exchange with a rival.
2: Georgia coach Kirby Smart
Harbaugh has had numerous exchanges with SEC coaches over his satellite camps and, more recently, his spring practices at IMG Academy in Florida. It’s the pun included in this shot at new Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart that sets it apart, though.
Perhaps the best part is that Smart didn’t even really criticize Harbaugh. While disapproving of Michigan’s spring trip to Florida and predicting that the NCAA would change its rules to prevent future trips, Smart acknowledged that it was Harbaugh’s “right” to try “to gain a competitive advantage.”
When the organization that essentially pushed you out despite going to three NFC championship games and one Super Bowl in four years flops so hard in its next season that it fires your predecessor, it’s perfectly understandable to feel a little schadenfreude.
And Harbaugh shared that emotion with the world as he cryptically chimed in hours after the 49ers parted ways with Jim Tomsula. It was a quality demonstration of his mastery of the subtweet.
4: Tennessee coach Butch Jones
There was no subtlety in this shot at Tennessee’s head coach after Jones joined the chorus upset with Harbaugh’s spring trip to Florida.
It was a direct hit on Jones, whose program was still reeling from allegations in a Title IX lawsuit against Tennessee.
5: The SEC as a whole
Harbaugh went to the subtweet again for this rhetorical question as the SEC organized its opposition to his spring practices in Florida.
The only problem is Harbaugh missed the irony of his calling out others for whining when he has his own reputation for the same behavior on the sidelines.
Perhaps none of Harbaugh’s tweets has been as delightfully weird as this statement, seemingly in response to reports of recruits decommitting after they said their scholarship offers had been pulled.
However, this one suffers in the rankings because, partially due to NCAA rules that prohibit coaches from talking about unsigned prospects, it had to be such a deep subtweet. Was Harbaugh’s angst directed at the recruits themselves; the media, many of whom criticized him over the allegations that he had pulled scholarship offers so shortly before National Signing Day; or just the general public? We’ll never know.