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Nihon University player Taisuke Miyagawa says coach ordered dirty tackles

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Nihon University defensive end Taisuke Miyagawa spoke publicly for the first time about his role in a controversial college football game on May 6 that has generated major media coverage.

He made dangerous late tackles on a Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback in that game, but insisted on Tuesday that he was instructed to injure the quarterback by one of the assistant coaches and that the order came down from head coach Masato Uchida.

Speaking before a jam-packed crowd at the Japan National Press Club, Miyagawa, a third-year player at the Kanto private school, read a prepared statement to explain the details of the incident.

He stated that he wrote it because he thought it would be “the first step” toward making amends to the second-year quarterback and his family by “clarifying” what happened.

Miyagawa’s attorneys said that his side decided to host the news conference on Monday because the actions the school and team were making had been too slow.

The 20-year-old said that he had been in the starting lineup for Nihon University, which is widely known as Nichidai, in the two games the Phoenix team played in the spring season late last month, but that he was banned from game-style training by the coaching staff because he did not show “drive and fighting morale.”

“In the huddle after (the practice), the head coach told us, ‘Because we don’t know if Miyagawa has motivation or not, we are not going to give him a chance to play in games. He can quit (our team),’ ” the player said.

Miyagawa added that assistant coach Tsutomu Inoue, who has coached the player since he was at Nihon University Buzan Senior High School, told him that he would not be given a chance to compete in games and participate in practices unless he would “change.”

Miyagawa, who continued to not be allowed to be to practice on May 5, said that Inoue suggested to him that he would be able to play in the game next day if he would injure the Kwansei Gakuin quarterback.

“After the practice (on May 5), coach Inoue said to me, ‘I asked head coach what you would need to do to play in the game, he said if you squash the quarterback on the first play, we would let you play. So go tell him ‘I’ll squash the quarterback, so use me,’ ” Miyagawa recalled.

Miyagawa added that Inoue told him that it would be beneficial for the Nichidai Phoenix team if the Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture team didn’t have its quarterback in the fall season.

“I thought it was an implication that I needed to do it with a strong mind-set as if I would smash (the quarterback) but I really did need to do it,” said Miyagawa, who was also told by Uchida to withdraw from playing for the national team at June’s World University Championship in China. “So I felt like I had no choice and was in anguish.”

Miyagawa said that he asked Uchida before the May 6 game to allow him to play, telling him he would do what he was instructed.

Miyagawa later committed two more personal fouls and was ejected from the game and went into a tent near the field. He said he cried while realizing the magnitude of what he just did on the gridiron. But according to Miyagawa, he was blamed by Inoue for his softness, referring to the sobbing.

Per Miyagawa’s explanation, he and his parents sat down with Uchida and Inoue on May 11, one day after the Nichidai team issued an apologetic statement to Kwansei Gakuin. The Miyagawas told them that the player and his parents wanted to go to the quarterback and his family to apologize, but the coaches asked the player’s side not do it.

Miyagawa also stated that his father demanded that the coaches make it public that they instructed him to commit the dirty plays, but they refused.

Last Friday, Miyagawa and his father finally visited the quarterback and his parents to apologize.

Miyagawa emphasized that he chose to go public to express his apology and divulge what really took place, not to accuse the coaching staff. Yet he said that he had hoped the coaches would reveal the truth on their own.

Uchida flew to Kansai on Saturday to apologize to the player and his parents in person, yet declined to comment on whether he and his coaching staff instructed Miyagawa injure the quarterback. The 62-year-old stepped down from his position the same day.

“It was I that did what I did,” Miyagawa said of the personal fouls. “I’m not in a position to say things about our manager and coaching staff. But I thought I needed to speak (about what happened).”

Miyagawa’s attorneys said that the team hasn’t hosted a hearing to ask the player about what he did in the May 6 game.

Miyagawa, who started playing the sport in high school, said that football was his first contact sport and enjoyed playing it earlier, but he gradually lost that pleasure since he began playing at Nichidai, the powerhouse football program that has won 21 Koshien Bowl national championships.

“I don’t think I have a right to continue to play American football,” he said. “Going forward, I have no intention to keep playing American football.”

On Monday night, the quarterback’s father held a news conference in Osaka and said that his family had filed a criminal complaint over the matter.

Meanwhile, the Nichidai faculty members association sent a joint statement to the school management on Monday, asking it to reveal the truth, as the incident is continuing to damage the reputation of the school.