YPSILANTI, Mich. – Eastern Michigan's football team has always had a hard time creating buzz because its program gets lost in the shadow of college football's winningest program in Ann Arbor.
Eagles coach Ron English unwittingly pulled it off this summer at the Mid-American Conference's media day, saying he wanted recruits with a father in their background because they didn't need to learn how to be taught by a man.
"I regret that some people thought I was attacking single moms," English said Wednesday in his office that looks over Rynearson Stadium. "I was raised by my grandmother. My father wasn't really a part of my life until I was a teenager. So, I have all the respect in the world for women raising kids on their own.
"I received some great e-mails from women, telling me they didn't know how rational people couldn't understand what I was saying and encouraging me to stick by my guns."
English insisted that recruiting players from only two-parent households is unrealistic as he tries to build a program that went winless last season in his debut as a head coach.
"Who could do that and survive? That's not realistic," he said. "Look at the landscape in America, where there might be more single-parent homes than traditional ones with a mom and a dad."
The Eagles open the season Saturday night at home against Army.
While English would rather just talk football with the reporters who have followed up with him about his attention-grabbing comments, he's glad people want to talk to him at all.
"I'm not sure the attention is bad because no one in this program committed a catastrophic crime," he said. "I'm sure there's a faction of people on campus who think I did a lot of damage to Eastern Michigan, but I don't think people who know me believe I've done that."
English's boss is clearly on his side.
Athletic director Derrick Gragg was the one who made English aware he was being criticized for his comments.
"I'm very supportive of him and the way he's tried to explain himself," Gragg said. "The positive we can take from it is people are getting a chance to see who he really is, how he was raised and what he stands for as he leads our football program at Eastern Michigan."