Photo/IllutrationA Nihon University player makes a late tackle from behind on the quarterback of the Kwansei Gakuin University team in Tokyo's Chofu on May 6. (Close-up of a screenshot captured from footage provided by Kwansei Gakuin University)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture—The Kwansei Gakuin University’s American football team rejected an explanation from Nihon University’s head coach that he never ordered his player to take a brutal cheap shot against the opposing quarterback.

Kwansei Gakuin University head coach Hideaki Toriuchi and team director Hiromu Ono said Nihon University’s response to their formal complaint about the late hit in the May 6 game was unsatisfactory.

In the letter received by Kwansei Gakuin University on May 15, Nihon University essentially blamed miscommunication between its head coach and the player for the incident.

“At this point, it is not the sincere answer that we were expecting,” Ono said at a news conference held on the university’s campus here on May 17.

On the first play at the traditional practice game between the two universities in Tokyo’s Chofu, the quarterback had thrown an incomplete pass but the defensive player kept running full steam at him from behind. The low hit caused knee and lower back injuries to the quarterback, who could not return to the game.

The Kwansei Gakuin University team expressed dissatisfaction that Nihon University has yet to offer a face-to-face apology to the quarterback and his parents.

Toriuchi and Ono said Nihon University’s letter, which was jointly signed by head coach Masato Uchida and team chief Naoto Kato, said the investigation was ongoing, and that another reply will be issued on May 24 at the latest.

According to Toriuchi and Ono, Nihon University’s letter said, “We never teach our players to commit intentionally dangerous plays.”

In the letter, Nihon University said the coaches had asked the player “show toughness” on the field within the rules, but there was a disparity between the instruction and how the player interpreted the words.

In response to this explanation, Toriuchi said, “If there was a disparity, why didn’t the coaches pull the player from the game immediately after he committed the first dangerous foul and tell him, ‘That’s not what we meant.’”

Even after the vicious hit on the quarterback, the defensive player remained in the game. He was flagged for another foul on the third play and again on the fifth play, before he was ejected from the game.

The Kwansei Gakuin University team also said the player’s conduct in the game was not typical of him. He was talented enough to represent Japan in an international age group competition.

“We especially have doubts over why a player, who played perfectly within the rules at the Koshien Bowl (national university football championship) last year, suddenly committed such an intentional and vicious act,” Ono said.

The Kwansei Gakuin University team publicly condemned the player and head coach at a news conference on May 10 and released video footage of the late hit.

In response to public outcry over the widely reported incident, Nihon University started an internal investigation.

On May 16, it said what had been written in the letter, that head coach has denied ordering intentional fouls or other wrongdoing.