The Sklar Brothers (Randy and Jason) might have put it best when they said at this year’s Signing of the Stars recruiting event, “Paul Finebaum has a middle school crush on Jim Harabugh.” Nobody talks about someone as much as he does without secretly loving him, Jason Sklar quipped.
Which brings us to Finebaum’s latest poking of the bear. Finebaum took on Harbaugh once more on ESPN’s Outside the Lines in criticizing him for adding Michael Johnson Sr.. to his football staff … for those who don’t know, Michael Johnson Jr. is the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2019.
“He’s an evil genius. I think he’s one of the smartest people I’ve run into in a long time. Most of what he’s done is just that: Genius … but this is wrong. It may not be illegal by NCAA standards and bylaws as of this moment, but to me, it’s cheating. It’s blatantly disregarding the spirit of the NCAA rule. We all know why he’s doing it. This is the same person who, last year, accused Nick Saban of cheating and Hugh Freeze of cheating.”
For the record, so has just about everyone else at one point or another, to the point that it’s getting old to rehash what goes on down there. Bag men, etc. … all stuff the NCAA seems to turn a blind eye to.
So the organization, in its infinite wisdom, has now proposed legislation that would prevent such hirings in the future (and for the record, it now appears Johnson will be the wide receivers coach at Oregon instead of an analyst at Michigan).
Why? Because what they don’t know (wink wink) can’t hurt them, but Harbaugh continues to — gasp — challenge the establishment by at least trying to level the playing field a bit.
Harbaugh has done his best to ignore Finebaum, but he couldn't help but respond to “Pete” Finebaum’s latest.
College football fans across the country have come to loathe Harbaugh. Those whose schools play within the rules should, frankly, love him for refusing to accept that you can’t win unless you play by the rules (those being that there are no rules) and win at the highest level.
So he climbs trees at recruits’ houses, tries to fully qualified staffers (let’s be clear – Johnson is a very good coach with an impressive background, and he’s worked with Harbaugh associates in the past) and searches for any and all legal ways to push the envelope.
“He gets a bad rap because people only know what they read about him,” five-star linebacker Jordan Anthony told us recently. “Everybody thinks he’s this and that, but he’s just a good guy.”
But he’s a competitive guy, too, and he’s not willing to accept that the way it is … well, is always going to be the way it is.
“I know he won’t be penalized for it, but he’s cheating,” Finebaum whined. “Why don’t we just face up to it? There’s no other reason why he would hire this man. It’s been done in the past. But it’s still wrong. I don’t know why the media celebrates Jim Harbaugh and doing things that are, in my mind, unethical.”
There are just as many in the media who wonder what Finebaum has done to become the spokesman for all that is good and just in college football, especially given the program he covers.
Regardless, Harbaugh will continue doing what he does — within the rules — and he should. But don’t expect the NCAA to change its approach. They’ll no doubt keep their eyes on him while the real tire fire of impropriety smolders on.
He’s doing it because he’s a competitive guy and he wants to win, of course. He’s also carrying the torch for all of those not willing to accept that championships are reserved for Teflon programs that can’t fathom that anyone would dare challenge their right to "by any means necessary" supremacy.
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