A major scandal broke out in Japan earlier this month when a player executed a flagrant late hit on an opposing quarterback, sending the player to the hospital, and the offender later revealed it was his coaches that ordered the code red. For a nation not raised on the violent nature of football, the late hit was a shock that assaulted Japan's national sensibilities.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Kanto Collegiate Football Association announced Nihon University head coach Masato Uchida and assistant coach Tsutomu Inoue have been banned for life for their role in the incident. Another assistant, Taku Mori, was "disqualified" from his position.
“We gave the harshest punishment to the coaches because we decided they forced the player to make the illegal tackle,” Keiji Morimoto, the chairman of the KCFA discipline committee, said, via the Japan Times. “We had the hearings from about 20 people, including players and coaches from both schools, officials and witnesses of the game. We also obtained videos and voices to investigate.”
Defender Taisuke Miyagawa and the entire Nihon Phoenix team were also handed conditional suspensions for the entire 2018 season. Miyagawa can be reinstated on the condition he produces a letter of apology to the KCFA and holds another meeting with the KFCA's discipline committee. The Nihon team can have its season-long ban lifted if the Phoenix "report how a series of fouls occurred in the May 6 game and how the Phoenix will prevent that from happening again."
The Nihon players released a team-wide statement Tuesday, apologizing to injured quarterback Kosei Okuno and his family while pledging to "change the team’s culture and earn the public’s trust again."
Okuno returned to competition for Kwansei Gakuin University for the first time since the late hit -- which sent him to the hospital with injuries to his knee and spine -- and urged Miyagawa to play again. “When he apologized to me in person, I felt really sorry for him,” Okuno told the Japan Times. “I hope he will come back to the field as a player again so we can compete in a fair manner within the rules.” Miyagawa announced in a nationally-covered press conference after the incident that he was retiring from football.