When Ohio State hired former Michigan assistants Greg Mattison and Al Washington back in January, it set up what’s likely going to be an awkward year.
Mattison and Washington aren’t the first people to hop from one side of the rivalry to the other, of course. Offensive lineman Justin Boren started his playing career at Michigan before transferring to Ohio State in 2008.
Bo Schembechler was an Ohio State assistant six years before he took the head coaching position at Michigan.
Gary Moeller was the captain of Ohio State’s 1963 team, and served as the Wolverines’ coach from 1990-1994.
But unlike Bo and Mo, Mattison and Washington are switching straight from one sideline of The Game to the other.
That could make the switch seem a little more personal. Monday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he didn’t see it coming – especially Mattison.
“I wouldn’t say shocked, I was surprised, yeah,” Harbaugh said.
Back in February, Mattison said he couldn’t turn down an opportunity to serve as a co-defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes. He spent the last four years as a position coach for the Wolverines.
“To have the opportunity to be a co-coordinator at a great university like Ohio State was an opportunity that I really wanted to pursue,” Mattison said.
While the change may have blind-sided him initially, Harbaugh said he ultimately understood it.
“Coaching-wise he wanted to be a coordinator again. Darn near doubled his salary. I don’t hold that against him. We’re not going to be sending each other Christmas cards based on where he went. That’s how I feel and understand it.”
Mattison made a similar move back when Lloyd Carr was Michigan’s coach, leaving Ann Arbor to take a defensive coordinator position at rival Notre Dame.
Switching sides to the hated Buckeyes might sting a little extra following the Wolverines’ 62-39 loss last November, but Harbaugh chose to take the high road.
“(Mattison is) still a good man. Still have a ton of respect for him, and we’ll be friends again someday when we’re done coaching.”
Harbaugh wasn’t specifically asked about Washington. That change wasn’t quite as surprising, since he’s a Columbus native whose father played linebacker for the Buckeyes.
If you’re interested in binging on the latest on the defending Peach Bowl runners-up, you can watch Harbaugh’s full initial spring press conference below.