Columbus, Ohio — If Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day could put aside their differences for a few moments, they might realize they have more in common than they originally thought.
Because, for the second day in a row, one head coach in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry on Tuesday flatly refused to say he had respect for the other.
A day after Michigan’s Harbaugh dodged a question about whether he respected Ohio State Day, his rival coach returned the favor when asked a nearly identical question.
“I think with everything that’s going on and things that are out there, we’ve just stayed away from all the distractions that we have and focused on our team,” Day responded.
“I think our guys have done a good job. … I’ve talked to them a couple of times about what happened this season, before the game, but they’re focused on this game. “They are focused on this season.”
No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan will meet for the 119th time Saturday in Ann Arbor (12 p.m.) with a trip to the Big Ten championship, the College Football Playoff and the pride of their programs on the line.
“It’s about preparation for Ohio,” Harbaugh began when asked Monday if he respected Day.
Bad blood has basically defined the relationship between these two coaches, since before they even coached a game against each other. Harbaugh was 0-5 against Ohio State and head coach Urban Meyer entering his tenure. His first meeting with Day in 2020 was canceled for COVID-related reasons, leading to a leaked comment from Day about how the Buckeyes would have scored 100 points if the game had been played.
When they really came together in 2021, it was Michigan and Harbaugh who took the upset victory, 42-27. Then came a comment from Harbaugh that more or less downplayed Day’s impact on Ohio State’s program: “Sometimes people at third base think they hit a triple, but they didn’t,” he said; then, a second consecutive victory. in Columbus, and now, a sign-stealing scandal that has one side of the aisle screaming that the last two years are pure nonsense.
Day and the Ohio State program have even been accused of being one of the Big Ten’s leading voices behind the push to investigate Michigan.
All of this, of course, has only made this year’s matchup even more contentious. But when asked if the extra heat had energized Day or made him sad, he again didn’t respond.
“They taught me that the way to respect a rivalry is to work on it every day. Whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s game planning, talking to players during practice periods during the spring, practice periods in the preseason, and that’s it,” Day said.
“We respect the rivalry and I’m certainly excited to play here on Saturday.”
Ohio State players did their best to avoid giving away bulletin board material, but there was at least one person who was clearly holding his tongue. Junior Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke, who has never beaten Michigan, smiled and took a long pause before answering a question about where the respect level is between the teams’ players.
“It’s respect for them,” Burke said. “We didn’t get it done the last two years and our job is to go out and get it done.”
Maybe adults could take a page or two from the student-athlete playbook. But let’s be honest: this rivalry could be better if they don’t.