National

Masato Uchida resigns as Nihon University board member over dirty tackle

Kyodo

Nihon University said Friday that Masato Uchida, its former head football coach, resigned from the board of directors on Wednesday for “causing tremendous trouble” to the school and other entities through the dirty tackle scandal involving one of the players.

Uchida offered to step down Wednesday after he and former assistant coach Tsutomu Inoue received a lifetime ban from competition in American football the previous day in connection with the May 6 incident, which took place during an intercollegiate game against Kwansei Gakuin University.

The ban, the heaviest punishment possible, was handed down by the ruling body for college football in Tokyo and surrounding areas.

In his capacity as personnel administration chief, Uchida will be furloughed for six months, the university said, adding it had appointed a team of seven lawyers to get to the bottom of the incident.

The third-party panel headed by Mitsuhiro Katsumaru, former chief of the Hiroshima High District Public Prosecutor’s Office, is expected to investigate whether Uchida and Inoue instructed 20-year-old linebacker Taisuke Miyagawa to injure the opposing team’s quarterback, as the player testified in a news conference.

The former coaches and the university deny the allegation, saying Miyagawa misinterpreted the coaches’ instructions.

Miyagawa explained at a news conference last week that he was given instructions to “crush” the player.

Uchida denied giving such instructions at a separate news conference. Inoue has admitted to telling Miyagawa to “crush the quarterback,” but said he only meant “play without fear,” not injure someone.

The Kantoh Collegiate Football Association, which expelled Uchida and Inoue, conducted its own investigation and concluded the two ordered the dirty play.

Kosei Okuno, the Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback injured on the play, has filed a criminal complaint with the police against Uchida and Inoue, while asking investigators to show leniency toward the Nihon University player.

Okuno was hit from behind by Miyagawa long after he released the ball. The tackle caused back and other injuries.

Okuno returned to competition last Sunday. The sophomore said he would like to meet Miyagawa on the field again in a fair competition, and hopes the incident does not tarnish the image of the sport.

On Tuesday Miyagawa’s teammates released a apology statement, saying they deserve part of the blame for “blindly following” the orders of Uchida and Inoue.

Okuno’s father, Yasutoshi, an Osaka Municipal Assemblyman, wrote in a Facebook post that his son reached an out-of-court settlement with Miyagawa on Thursday in which the latter offered sincere apologies over the incident and agreed to pay ¥300,000 to cover transportation and other expenses for renting a news conference venue. Attorney’s fees were not included.

The settlement also said the injured player does not want to press criminal charges against Miyagawa.