Before Michigan football arrived in Bradenton for four spring practices, there was an uproar.
Barbs kept flying head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines' way during their stay at IMG Academy last week.
Now that it's over, who really won?
Harbaugh, and it's not even close.
Never miss a local story.
Why? He managed to turn spring practice into a national story.
Once in Manatee County, the jabs were thrown and questions peppered Harbaugh about his arrival irking the heart of SEC country.
He downplayed any perceived recruiting advantages. But at the fourth and final practice, which was open to the public, any top-level recruit at IMG Academy or elsewhere could see what all the fuss was about.
That recruiting edge is
certainly a factor behind so much concern -- albeit mainly from SEC coaches -- over the trip. The SEC and the NCAA backlash sounded more like the Taylor Swift song, "Shake It Off," when the line, "haters gonna hate," hits.
Harbaugh, a master at the game, zinged the detractors through subtweets on social media. From the moment the trip was announced officially on National Signing Day last month, Harbaugh spit fire back at Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, while others such as Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema chimed in about stopping by the open practice.
The NCAA nixed that plan as last week's practices took place during a quiet period for recruits, meaning no contact could be made. While no communication took place between coaches and recruits, future college players had their chance to see Michigan's final Florida practice.
Oh, and 5,000-plus fans.
Boom, Harbaugh wins again.
Look, the Wolverines are a storied program that doesn't need extra publicity. The brand sells itself. Harbaugh, though, breathed life back into a program that went through many lean years prior to his rookie season in charge in Ann Arbor in 2015.
The rejuvenation process has seen creative measures, from satellite camps to sleepovers at a recruits house to the signing with the stars event and the spring break trip to the Sunshine State that generated conversation on a daily basis while they were here.
Harbaugh is acting like he doesn't realize what's happening with the maneuvers, but he's definitely the puppet master pulling the strings.
So the players got a chance to go to the beach, take in a spring training game and have some other non-football related activities?
Oh, the horror!
Harbaugh is the driving force behind Michigan's resurgence. At the Pirates spring training home opener against the Tigers, Harbaugh coached first base for Detroit for a few innings. Tons of Maize and Blue fans lined up seeking his autograph before the game even started.
When he trotted out onto IMG Academy Stadium's field, he received a loud ovation from those 5,000-plus fans that filled up the stands. Photos and videos were taken with various mobile devices.
Harbaugh is the center of the storm, and he's perfect for it since he's just playing the game better than most.
How many coaches have their phone number publicly out there on Twitter?
It can't be many, but Harbaugh is the one that's got enough swag to do such a thing.
Not all SEC coaches took umbrage to Harbaugh's spring practice relocation plan, with Florida's Jim McElwain praising the move as "he's pressing envelopes."
But those that were upset can make fun of his patented khaki pants and sweatshirt look, no matter where he goes, and he's laughing.
Because he's winning.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton.com