ALLENDALE, Mich. (AP) — A newly hired coach for a college football team in western Michigan resigned Thursday following his suspension for referring to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler as a “great leader.”
“Morris Berger and Grand Valley State have reached a mutual agreement regarding his position as offensive coordinator at Grand Valley State University,” the university said on its website. “Berger has resigned and the university has accepted it with immediate effect.”
Grand Valley State is in Allendale, west of Grand Rapids.
The school announced the former offensive coordinator’s hiring last week, but during a Jan. 23 interview with the university’s newspaper, The Lanthorn, Berger was asked which three historical figures he would like to have dinner with.
“This is probably not going to get a good review, but I’m going to say Adolf Hitler,” Berger told the student journalist. “It was obviously very sad and he had bad motives, but the way he was able to lead was second to none. How he rallied a group and a following, I want to know how he did that. Bad intentions of course, but you can’t deny he wasn’t a great leader.”
Berger also said he would like to meet President John F. Kennedy because of “his experience with the country and being that he was a good president and everything.” Christopher Columbus was his third choice due to “the ability to go on the journey he was on … into the unknown,” Berger said.
Berger was suspended Monday. In the school’s statement Thursday, he said he is “disappointed” to not get the opportunity to help the team’s players in 2020.
He added that he didn’t want to be a “distraction to these kids, this great university” or head football coach Matt Mitchell “as they begin preparations for the upcoming season.”
Days after Berger’s comments were published last week in the online article, The Lanthorn editor-in-chief Nick Moran told MLive.com Thursday that an athletics department official pressured the sports editor to remove the Hitler references.
The student sports editor “reflexively” complied and removed the comments, said Moran, who declined to name the official. The Hitler references were restored the next day.
Berger joined Grand Valley State after spending a season as Texas State’s tight ends coach. Berger also spent time on the football staff at Oklahoma State.
Berger holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in educational psychology, according to the athletic department website.