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Former OSU football staffer Morris Berger suspended by Grand Valley State over Hitler comments

Morris Berger, who spent 2017 and 2018 as an offensive quality control coach for Oklahoma State football, has been suspended from his job as Grand Valley State’s offensive coordinator.

Berger was suspended for calling Adolf Hitler a “great leader.”

You can’t make up this stuff.

Grand Valley State is an NCAA Division II located in Allendale, Michigan, that competes in the Great Lakers Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Grand Valley State football is most known for launching Brian Kelly’s career. Now the coach at Notre Dame, Kelly was head coach at Grand Valley State for 13 seasons (1991-2003), went 118-35-2 and won two NCAA D-II championships.

But now the Lakers will be known for the offensive coordinator who admires Hitler.

Berger was hired at Grand Valley State on January 20. Three days later, he gave an interview to the university newspaper, the Lantern. In that interview, Berger was asked what three historical figures with which he would like to have dinner.

He chose John Kennedy, Christopher Columbus (which can also get you in hot water on a college campus) and Hitler.

“This is probably not going to get a good review, but I'm going to say Adolf Hitler," Berger reportedly said. “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, a 2012 graduate of Drury University, joined Mike Gundy’s staff in 2017 and coached for the Cowboys for two years.

A couple of things here.

1. Berger’s comments were stupid. If you want to have dinner with Hitler because you want to figure out what evil looks like, maybe. If you want to pick his brain for leadership tips, well, that’s a non-starter for another century or four.

2. A college campus is no place to say something controversial. Time was, universities were the nation’s breeding ground for dissent and debate. Not anymore. If you don’t talk and think a certain way, you’re in the vast minority and will be shouted down or run off if you say anything counter to the accepted thinking.

Will Berger be given a chance to explain himself and/or apologize? Seems unlikely. If it had been Brian Kelly circa 2002, sure. But a first-week offensive coordinator? Probably not.

CNN quoted a Grand Valley State history professor, Jason Crouthamel, as saying Berger’s words were “most harmful” and “atrocious … leading a society toward genocidal violence should be absolutely condemned."

Berger sort of did condemn them – “bad motives” and “bad intentions” – but never mind.

It’s possible that Berger is some kind of knucklehead. Or even an evil person. It’s also possible that he just didn’t explain himself very well – offensive quality control coaches, or assistants at Texas State (where he coached in 2019), don’t get interviewed often. But Berger might not get a chance to learn from his mistake.

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Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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