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Smith apologizes for comments; Harbaugh tweets reply

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith showed no interest today in engaging in a war of words with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

Smith said he meant no disrespect to Michigan by the comments a day earlier that prompted a stunning rebuttal on Twitter from Harbaugh.

“My comments at a soccer press conference yesterday were not meant to discredit our rival,” Smith tweeted. “I apologize to UM student-athletes and my good friend [Michigan athletic director] Warde Manuel. We at OSU look forward to continuing the greatest rivalry in college football.”

Smith politely declined to elaborate on the Twitter statement.

Smith unintentionally found himself in the middle of a media storm after saying he was against the Ohio State football team practicing in Florida on spring break — similar to the trip just completed by Harbaugh at Michigan.

In response to a question by The Blade following a news conference to announce a major international soccer match at Ohio Stadium this summer, Smith explained that Ohio State — which is 50-4 with a national title over the past four seasons — was not in the same situation as Michigan.

“I think it’s a creative idea and I understand that,” Smith said Tuesday. “But I would not be supportive of taking away student-athletes’ free time to go practice. We’re talking about spring practice! What was my man’s name? Allen Iverson? We’re talking about practice!

“I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t support taking that time away from our student-athletes. Is it creative? Does it help from a recruiting and marketing point of view? I get it. If we were jump-starting our program, I’d probably try to do that, too. But we’re not jump-starting our program. We’re in a different place.”

Harbaugh fired back late Tuesday night.

“Good to see Director Smith being relevant again after the tattoo fiasco,” he tweeted, referring to the Buckeyes’ tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal in 2011. “Welcome back!”