The amusing part of this — well, one of the amusing parts — is that Butch Jones isn’t what you’d call an amusing guy. He’s RoboCoach. He’s so determined to stay on message that we in the media wish he’d get a new message, just for variety’s sake. But I digress.
The Tennessee coach just touched the third rail of college football: He took on Jim Harbaugh. This never ends well. The Michigan man has become to Twitter what an exasperated Pep Guardiola, then of Barcelona, called Jose Mourinho, then of Real Madrid, before a Champions League semifinal in 2011: “In this (press) room, Mourinho is the (censored) boss, the (censored) champ.”
(For the non-soccer set: Guardiola and Mourinho are the two best managers in the world, and next year they could be sharing a neighborhood. Guardiola is leaving Bayern Munich for Manchester City; Mourinho, who recently stepped down at Chelsea, could wind up at Manchester United. Oh, what fun.)
Harbaugh has reveled in his spring-practice fling, not least because it has given him opportunity to tweak the SEC, which was surely one the reasons he brought his Wolverines to Florida in the first place. On Twitter, he accused Greg Sankey of whining, which the SEC commissioner was, and Georgia’s Kirby Smart, whom Harbaugh referred to as “the Bulldogs coach,” of “barking up the wrong tree.”
Not willing to leave bad enough alone, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema suggested via Twitter that he might show up at IMG Academy in Bradenton to watch the Wolverines work. Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, who’s closer geographically to the Harbaugh Phenomenon than any major-college coach, asked if he could meet Bielema for lunch. (Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss looked into auditing the sessions, too.)
As it turned out, none of the above was allowed to attend a Michigan practice. It’s a dead period for recruiting, and IMG has more than a dozen big-name recruits. Which is why Harbaugh’s decision to hold practices on the IMG campus — which IS allowed — was a genius move.
A day after Bielema and Dantonio had their little dialogue on social media, unfunny Butch sought to have a little fun, tweeting: “Mind if I join you two for lunch?”
Which prompted this from Harbaugh: “Suggestion to my Rocky Top colleague, rather than lunch in Florida you might spend your time and focus attending to your present team.”
Granted, this was a cheap shot, and it’s worth noting that Harbaugh didn’t fire back at either Bielema or Dantonio: He picked the most vulnerable target. But that’s Harbaugh: Open the door and he’ll walk through it and kick you in the gut with — Tennessee reference here — a hobnail boot.
In fewer than 140 characters, the Michigan man not-so-subtly reminded us that the head Vol has more important issues at home, which he absolutely does. Tennessee is involved in a Title IX lawsuit that involves allegations of sexual abuse, and Jones himself was accused by a former player of calling him “a traitor” for offering assistance to a woman who claimed she was raped by two of his teammates.
Let’s be clear: There’s nothing funny about sexual abuse or rape or a Title IX lawsuit. But it has become a source of ongoing entertainment how fixated those from the almighty SEC have become regarding Harbaugh — and how he has taken whatever they’ve tossed his way and thrown it back twice as hard. The lesson (which should have been learned a while ago) is this:
You cannot beat Jim Harbaugh on Twitter. In that realm, he is the boss, the champ.