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Jim Harbaugh, Ezekiel Elliott trade jabs in Ohio State, Michigan rivalry

By Alex Butler   |   March 23, 2016 at 6:52 PM

ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 23 (UPI) -- Rampant rivalries don't dry during an arid offseason.

And one of the biggest rivalries in sports is live and well. After Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith took a shot at the Michigan football program, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh punched back. Now former Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott has joined the verbal food fight.

Michigan, who is holding spring break practice in Florida, was recently the subject of a Smith slant.

"If we were jump starting our program, I'd probably try to do that too," Smith told Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod.

On Tuesday, Harbaugh responded to Smith's jab.

"Good to see Director Smith being relevant again after the tattoo fiasco," Harbaugh tweeted. "Welcome back!"

Smith was also the athletic director at Ohio State in 2011, when then head coach Jim Tressel was let go and the school had a 2012 bowl ban after players were caught exchanging autographs and memorabilia for free and discounted tattoos, all in violation to NCAA rules.

Before Tressel's departure, Smith had a heck of a sound bite when asked if the coach would be fired.

"I hope he doesn't fire me," Smith said, as Tressel's then boss.

Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a 10-3 record in 2015, after leaving the San Francisco 49ers.

Elliott responded to the tweet less than an hour later.

"Welcome to the big house coach," Elliott tweeted. "Better luck next time." Elliott's tweet included a picture of himself scoring against the Wolverines and holding up his arms in celebration.

The Buckeyes slammed the Wolverines 42-13 on Nov. 28 in Michigan. Elliott rumbled 30 times for 214 yards and two scores in the lopsided victory. But Michigan leads the all-time series 58-48-6.

Smith issued an apology Wednesday on Twitter.

"STATEMENT: My comments at a soccer press conference yesterday were not meant to discredit our rival. I apologize to UM student-athletes & my good friend Warde Manuel. We at OSU look forward to continuing the greatest rivalry in collegiate football."

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