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Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll both weigh in on bitter coaching rivalry

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The two have been butting heads for seven long years, going back to when Jim Harbaugh’s skilled stewardship of the Stanford Cardinal football program helped usher in the downfall of Pete Carroll as beloved and unquestioned czar of the USC Trojans when the football team achieved unparalleled excellence.

The two haven’t gone full circle in their rivalry, they have evolved, nearly simultaneously, as Harbaugh has led the San Francisco 49ers back to NFL prominence and Carroll has oversaw the Seattle Seahawks ascension into league relevance.

Between the NFL and the PAC-10, Harbaugh holds a 6-3 edge over Carroll. The two will take the next step in further establishing one of the best coaching rivalries in pro sports currently going on Sunday when the 49ers and Seahawks battle for a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII.

When asked about the supposed animosity that exists between the two, Harbaugh downplayed it, brushing such notions aside as simply the manifestation of both coach’s fierce competitiveness.

“Animosity? No,” Harbaugh said, via USA Today. “That’s erroneous. Erroneous. It’s football. It’s competition. It’s winning.”

Asked if the two have conversations given the teams they oversee play one another at least twice a season, Harbaugh played it cool.

“We’ve had football,” he said, reportedly chuckling. “Competition. Winning. That’s sports. That’s what we’ve had. Great competition.”

Reporters covering the Seahawks also opted to inquire about the relationship between the two, apparently asking “What’s the deal?” of Carroll on Thursday.

“What’s the deal, huh?” Carroll said. “We have not been friends over the years. We don’t know each other very well. It’s a very, very confined relationship in that regard.

“For whatever reason, you guys have had a field day with thinking that it’s something other than it is. I have great respect for what Jim’s done. I think he’s a tremendous football coach. So that’s it. That’s where it stops and starts. All the rest of this stuff, you guys have had a blast with it. But there’s nothing there, you know?”

The “What’s the deal?” reference stems from a confrontation the two coaches had following a 2009 game when Stanford laid a 55-21 beatdown on USC.

Both the 49ers and Seahawks franchises appear primed to field competitive teams for the long haul, so Sunday may not be the last time we see these two compete on one of the biggest stages in pro football. At last we can hope that’s the case.

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