Linebacker implicates coaches after late hit sparks outrage in Japan

A late hit in a college football game in Japan has sparked national outrage — and the player at the center of the controversy says his coaches ordered him to do it.

In a game three weeks ago, Nihon University linebacker Taisuke Miyagawa crushed Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback Kousei Okuno from behind on the first play from scrimmage several seconds after Okuno threw a pass.

At a Tuesday news conference, Miyagawa, 20, explained that his coaches made it clear that they wanted him to injure the opposing quarterback, the New York Times reported.

Miyagawa apparently succeeded. Okuno suffered knee and back injuries and was expected to be out for three weeks.

Miyagawa bowed for 15 seconds to show his remorse for a late hit.

Miyagawa bowed for 15 seconds to show his remorse for a late hit. (Associated Press)

On Tuesday, the linebacker apologized for his actions and bowed for 15 seconds to express his remorse.

“I wasn’t strong enough to say no,” he said at the news conference. “Though I was ordered by the coaches, I could have refused, but went ahead anyway and acted. It was weakness on my part.”

“I wasn’t strong enough to say no. Though I was ordered by the coaches, I could have refused, but went ahead anyway and acted. It was weakness on my part.”

— Taisuke Miyagawa, former linebacker, Nihon University

Nihon head coach, Masato Uchida, said Saturday he would resign and take responsibility for the brutal hit, despite previously denying that he had ordered players to deliver big hits to their opponents.

“The responsibility for this series of problems lies directly with me. I will resign as head coach,” he said.

Nihon head coach Masato Uchida said he would resign.

Nihon head coach Masato Uchida said he would resign. (Associated Press)

Uchida was heavily scrutinized in the days and weeks after the hit, the Times reported. Kwansei Gakuin University had sent a letter to Nihon University asking for an explanation, while the Kanto College Football Association suspended Miyagawa indefinitely for the hit.

Several other teams have also canceled upcoming games with Nihon and the school teachers’ union called on university officials to review the incident, the newspaper reported.

The university must “re-examine the sound way to play sports and educate all players again regarding the importance of the spirit of fair play,” the Nihon University Teachers’ Union said in a statement.

The head of the Japan Sports Agency, Daichi Suzuki, described it as “a dangerous act” that “merited a straight red card.”

Miyagawa said he loved playing high school football, but lost love for the game due to the high pressure. He said that he had “no intention” of continuing to play.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.