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Univ. American football body concludes Nichidai coaches lied about dirty tackle order

Kantoh Collegiate Football Association board member Keiji Morimoto, left, speaks as association chairman Yuji Kakizawa listens during a news conference in Tokyo's Chuo Ward on May 29, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Kantoh Collegiate Football Association (KCFA)'s May 29 decision to expel former Nihon University (Nichidai) American football club coaches Masato Uchida and Tsutomu Inoue over a dirty tackle concluded that the two men had lied in their explanations of the incident, and that they had ordered the illegal play.

Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback Kosei Okuno was injured in a May 6 game when Nihon University linebacker Taisuke Miyagawa tackled him from behind well after he had released the ball. Miyagawa stated at a May 22 news conference that club head coach Uchida had ordered him to foul the Kwansei QB. Uchida and Inoue, who relayed the message to Miyagawa, claimed at a May 23 news conference that they had not ordered the linebacker to foul the Kwansei quarterback.

KCFA board member and head of its disciplinary committee Keiji Morimoto stated on May 29 that the association had found Miyagawa's account "concrete and true to life," and that Uchida's comment to Miyagawa before the May 6 game that "it means nothing if you don't (foul the Kwansei QB)" was "clearly an instruction."

Meanwhile, regarding Nichidai's claim that Miyagawa "misconstrued" Inoue's "crush the QB" order, Morimoto stated that the "instruction included the intention that Miyagawa should injure the quarterback, and there was no gap in understanding." Furthermore, Morimoto concluded that the Nichidai team's essential complexion formed the circumstances for the dirty tackle: "extreme instructions, the coaches who gave consideration to such guidance, and the team that couldn't say anything about it."

The KCFA decision brought into sharp relief the absolute power and control exerted over the Nichidai team and at the university by 62-year-old head coach Uchida. According to sources at Nichidai, Uchida was not only a managing director at the school in charge of personnel, but also the "No. 2" to Nichidai board chairman Hidetoshi Tanaka, and had control over the budgets of 34 university athletic clubs as the head of health and physical education at the school.

Uchida resigned as the Nichidai football head coach in 2015. However, on his return to the post in 2017, sources close to the school said the atmosphere around the team changed completely. According to one player, "the coaches were always worried about his (Uchida's) moods and kept changing their instructions to us."

More than 20 players quit the club that year, and in addition to the tough practices sources report that the coaches were sometimes violent against the players. In a statement regarding his state of mind before the May 6 game in which he injured the Kwansei quarterback, Miyagawa wrote, "If I don't do it, there's no future for me."

According to the family of another Nichidai player, when they asked him what he would have done if he had got the same order as Miyagawa, the student replied, "I'd have no choice." One of his parents commented, "This is what Nichidai is. Any player would have had to do it," referring to the dirty tackle.

According to the KCFA, the association's four-member disciplinary committee interviewed about 20 people including referees and people related to Kwansei Gakuin. At a May 29 association board meeting, 16 members voted in favor of the punishments for Uchida and Inoue. The KCFA also punished another coach, Taku Mori, by stripping him of his credentials, while suspending Miyagawa and his team from official games for the rest of the academic year ending March 2019. However, the association held out the possibility that Miyagawa and the Nichidai team could return to the field in the autumn if they show the association board of directors that they have taken sufficient measures to avoid a recurrence.

Furthermore, the KCFA's decision to expel Uchida and Inoue is a first, and must be approved at an upcoming meeting of representatives from all the association's teams.

Meanwhile, Nichidai is set to launch a third-party committee this week to look into the dirty tackle and the circumstances around it. The Kwansei quarterback's family filed a complaint with police over the tackle and investigators have begun questioning Nichidai officials to ascertain if there is any criminal responsibility.

(Mainichi)

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