Skip to main content

Nittai University Head Coach Masaaki Watanabe Fired Over Abuse Scandal



On Sept. 12 Nittai University announced that it will fire ekiden team head coach Masaaki Watanabe, 55, over the current power harassment scandal surrounding him. According to the university's public relations office, interviews by the alumni association with five current and one former team member reported multiple acts of violence by Watanabe including kicking athletes' legs and grabbing them by the chest.

The interviews also reported that Watanabe verbally abused and threatened student athletes and attacked their character. When runners fell off pace during workouts he was reported to have shouted, "Get the hell out of this university!" and, following the runners in a car, "I am going to f*cking run you over and kill you." Injured team members were also reported to have been subject to verbal humiliation by Watanabe, including, "Look at this f*cking cripple," and "You f*cking deserve it." Watanabe admitted the accusations but said that he did not consider his words and actions to be abusive.

Watanabe submitted his resignation on Sept. 11, but having determined that he was "not suitable to oversee students," the Nittai Athletic Department chose to fire him with his title of head coach still in place. Although the Nittai team is scheduled to open its season in less than a month at the Oct. 8 Izumo Ekiden its replacement head coach has not yet been chosen.

Watanabe became head coach of Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. in 1993 but left the school in 2013 after revelations of abuse surfaced. According to the Aichi Prefectural Board of Education, between 2008 and 2012 Watanabe committed 33 reported acts of violence toward members of the school's boys' and girls' ekiden teams including beating one with a broom badly enough to require stitches and striking another in the head hard enough to damage the student's eardrum. As a result he received a four-month suspension.

Meanwhile, in recognition of his success in transforming the teams into a national powerhouse the high school's PTA organization collected 38,000 signatures on a petition asking that he remain as head coach. Nevertheless he left the school, taking a position as a physical education teacher at Nittai Ebara H.S. before being hired by his alma mater Nittai University in 2015 to coach its ekiden team. Less than six months into Watanabe's first season as head coach star fourth-yeat Hideto Yamanaka and four other team members quit. The team placed in the top ten at the Hakone Ekiden all three seasons Watanabe coached them.

Translator's note: Despite Nittai's outstanding decision to reject Watanabe's resignation and instead formally fire him, given the circumstances of his departure from Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. the question of responsibility for having hired him at Nittai in the first place still remains.

source articles:
https://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20180912-OHT1T50100.html
https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20180910-00000017-ykf-spo
translated by Brett Larner

Buy Me A Coffee

Comments

Metts said…
I thought it was bad where I am just west of Japan.
CK said…
2 years ago I was invited to a reunion of a sporting (non-athletics) junior high squad and their coach. Now all about 50 years old this group were still fearful (and respectful it must be said) of their octagenarian former coach who had hit them all, male and female, as teenagers. "He did it because he loved us, etc". One is now teaching/coaching at a high level in school (has had future senior national champions); one is still a high-ranking masters player; one who had graduated from Nittai was openly describing hitting and slapping her own teenage (male and female) proteges in the 1990s; and one of them curiously seemed to have a more recent yakuza history(!) And one and all they defended the accused coaches in the plethora of recent abuse stories in the Japanese media. ...It's going to take a long time for Japan, and especially sports factories like NittaiDai to deinstitutionalise attitudes to some of these practices.
Andrew Armiger said…
A just ending and, indeed, he was not employable as a coach long ago.
sonny said…
You think he would have moved to issue an apology of some sort and at least tone it down!
Metts said…
Former short track speed skate coach, from a country just west of Japan, has received a 10 month sentence for similar abuse. Also got a lifetime ban from the skating union earlier in the year.

Most-Read This Week

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

Kibet Runs 10000 m World Lead in Kobe, a 3:44.86 High Schooler and More - Weekend Track Roundup

After giving World XC a miss, Kazuki Tamura (Sumitomo Denko) got his outdoor season off to a good start with a 13:33.70 PB for 5th at California's Mt. SAC Relays. His teammate Yuki Nakamura ran only 14:34.97, while the U.S.-based Takeshi Okada (UC Berkeley) ran 9:02.75 for 12th in the 3000 mSC. Toyota Jidoshokki teammates Momoka Kawaguchi and Nao Yamamoto ran the women's 5000 m, Kawaguchi the faster of the two at 15:54.82.

Back home, Bernard Kibet (Kyudenko) ran an early season world-leading time of 27:36.24 to win the Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix men's 10000 m, beating the 27:43.34 by Macharia Ndirangu (Aichi Seiko) a day earlier in Hyogo's Asics Challenge men's 10000 m, at the time also a world-leader. Kibet's teammate Shohei Otsuka was the fastest Japanese man of the weekend at 28:25.42 in the Asics Challenge race.

Women's Grand Prix 10000 m winner Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Starts) came up short of a world-leading time but was just a few seconds off t…

Kiprop and Hunde Win Nagano Marathon

Ugandan Jackson Kiprop and Ethiopian Meskerem Hunde won Sunday's 21st edition of the Nagano Marathon. Running a steady and well-paced race that went out near 2:10:30 pace and sped up slightly to a 1:04:58 halfway split, Kiprop wore down the competition until there were only four left at 30 km. Ethiopian Deresa Geleta stayed with him until the very end, but Kiprop had the finish in him to open 3 seconds on Geleta to become Nagano's first-ever Ugandan winner in 2:10:39.

Geleta's 2:10:42 was good for a PB, with Japan's Naoya Sakuda (JR Higashi Nihon) also dropping a big PB of 2:11:21 for 3rd over Kenyan Alfred Kering. #1-ranked Asuka Tanaka (Hiramatsu Byoin) was one of the first to drop off Kiprop's early pace but rallied late in the race to take 5th in 2:14:35, his best performance since a stress fracture following his breakthrough in Tokyo last year.

Hunde pulled off an equally evenly-paced run to win the women's race, projected to run 2:33:44 after 5 km and en…