Assistant football coach in Michigan resigns over pro-Hitler comment

Morris Berger resigned and apologized, saying the "insensitive" comment fell "well short of the mark."

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By David K. Li

An embattled football coach at Grand Valley State University in Michigan resigned Thursday, just days after he told a reporter how much he admired Adolf Hitler's leadership skills.

Morris Berger, now the former offensive coordinator for the Grand Valley State Lakers, said he meant no harm but acknowledged his career-damaging error.

"In a poor effort to give an outside-the-box answer to a question, I mistakenly communicated something absurd," Berger said in an all-caps open letter announcing his resignation. "There is no justifiable excuse — it was insensitive and not my intent."

Berger said he brought embarrassment to himself, to his parents and to his school.

"I mishandled the answer, and fell way short of the mark," he wrote.

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In an interview with the Grand Valley Lanthorn, the university's student newspaper, Berger — whose hiring was announced last week — was asked what historical figure he'd most like to have dinner with.

"This is probably not going to get a good review, but I'm going to say Adolf Hitler," Berger said, according to the newspaper. "It was obviously very sad and he had bad motives, but the way he was able to lead was second-to-none."

Head coach Matt Mitchell defended his hiring of Berger but said it was best for all parties to part ways.

"Nothing in our background and reference checks revealed anything that would have suggested the unfortunate controversy that has unfolded," Mitchell said in a statement the university released Thursday.

"This has been a difficult time for everyone. I accepted Coach Berger's resignation in an effort for him to move on and for us to focus on the team and our 2020 season."

Grand Valley State is in Allendale, about 15 miles west of Grand Rapids.

The Lakers play in Division II, the third tier of college football, and are usually one of the division's top programs. They have won four Division II national championships, all from 2002 to 2006.