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Editorial: Football body's punishment of ex-Nihon Univ. coaches highlights abuse of power

The Kantoh Collegiate Football Association (KCFA) has handed down a sharp verdict on former coaches of Nihon University's American football team over a linebacker's dangerous tackle against a Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback in a May 6 game, announcing a decision to expel ex-head coach Masato Uchida and ex-assistant coach Tsutomu Inoue.

An expulsion is the harshest punishment that the association can deliver to its members, effectively meaning a lifetime ban from the university American football community. It is extremely rare for someone to be expelled in the Japanese sports world, professional or amateur.

The KCFA recognized that Inoue's instruction to the Nihon University player to "crush" the Kwansei Gakuin quarterback was "intended to tell the linebacker to injure the quarterback." With regard to Uchida's comments including denials that he had ever ordered the linebacker to play foul, the association condemned the ex-head coach, saying, "Almost all of his comments lack credibility," based on video footage and other evidence available.

The association, meanwhile, recognized that the testimony given by Nihon University linebacker Taisuke Miyagawa, who is accused of multiple foul plays including the dirty tackle, was reasonable.

The KCFA's punishment not only disqualified the former coaches as instructors, but also highlighted the abnormal governance mechanism in the Nihon University American football team with Uchida at its pinnacle.

After the footage of Miyagawa's dangerous tackle went viral online, he publicly admitted at a press conference that the then coaches' instructions were behind his foul play. In response, Uchida and Inoue appeared before the media, where they adamantly denied Miyagawa's accusations.

Although the two parties are at odds in their assertions, both of them admitted the presence of a high-handed instructional method where players are driven into a corner psychologically.

Miyagawa revealed that he wasn't in a position where he could frankly give his opinions to Uchida.

In a statement released by the players of the Nihon University American football team via their parents' association, the players revealed that they were completely dependent on the head coach and other coaches, blindly following their instructions.

The head coach of a university sports team exerts tremendous influence on not only the selection of players for games but also their career paths after graduation. Players have no choice but to obey their head coach, with no room to resist their absolute power. Interactions that showed no regard to common sense were an everyday affair at the Nihon University team, which transcended the bounds of anything that can be called guidance.

According to the KCFA, other coaches in the Nihon University team also followed Uchida out of fear, even to the point of bending their own guidance policies. If they upset him, they were reportedly forced to resign.

Though under suspension, Uchida is still officially managing director in charge of personnel affairs at Nihon University. It was obviously difficult for other coaches to disobey his orders, given his pivotal role in the university's management.

The KCFA's punishment effectively ruled that the essential cause of the problem was a pyramid of control at Nihon University's American football team with Uchida sitting at the top.

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