Grand Valley State assistant Morris Berger resigns after Hitler controversy

Yahoo Sports
(Grand Valley State University)
(Grand Valley State University)

Morris Berger has resigned from his position as offensive coordinator at Grand Valley State. 

Berger was suspended earlier this week for comments he made in an interview with the Grand Valley Lanthorn, the university’s student newspaper. Berger was asked which three historical figures he would like to have dinner with. His first answer was Adolf Hitler

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Q: So you graduated from Drury with a degree in History, you’re a history guy. If you could have dinner with three historical figures, living or dead, who would they be? And I’m ruling out football figures.

A: This is probably not going to get a good review, but I’m going to say Adolf Hitler. 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.

That interview was published on Jan. 23, just three days after Berger was formally announced as the Lakers’ new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The school announced its suspension for Berger on Jan. 27. On Thursday, the school said it reached a “mutual agreement” with Berger offering his resignation and the school accepting it. 

“Over the last 11 years I have taken great pride in the responsibility and privilege of being a teacher, coach, mentor and a valued member of the community,” Berger said in a statement. “I was excited and proud to be at Grand Valley, and am disappointed that I will not get the opportunity to help these players in 2020. However, I do not want to be a distraction to these kids, this great university or Coach Mitchell as they begin preparations for the upcoming season.”

In a statement, GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said it was in the best interests of the team to accept Berger’s resignation. 

“Nothing in our background and reference checks revealed anything that would have suggested the unfortunate controversy that has unfolded,” Mitchell said. “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.”

Berger: ‘I mistakenly communicated something absurd’

In an “open letter” posted on his Twitter account earlier Thursday — before the school announced his resignation — Berger tried to explain himself. He said the answer, in which he said Hitler’s ability to lead was “second-to-none,” was a “poor effort to give an outside-the-box answer.”

“I mistakenly communicated something absurd. There is no justifiable excuse. It was insensitive and not my intent,” he wrote. “I failed myself, my parents and this university. The answer I attempted to give does not align with the values instilled in me by my parents, nor represent what I stand for or believe in. I mishandled the answer and fell way short of the mark.”

Below is the full letter, which includes an apology:

Before landing the OC job at GVSU, Berger spent the 2019 season as the tight ends coach at Texas State. He also had a two-year stint at Oklahoma State as a quality control coach and spent three years as a graduate assistant at Missouri. 

Grand Valley State is a Division II program based in Allendale, Michigan. The Lakers compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and are coming off an 8-3 record in 2019. GVSU won the Division II national title in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

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