You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 3:52 p.m.

Eastern Michigan football coach Ron English apologizes and addresses controversial comments

By Jeff Arnold


Second-year Eastern Michigan football coach Ron English said he did not mean to slight single mothers in comments that led to a Detroit Free Press column on Sunday. ( file photo)

Ron English arrived at work Monday prepared to begin his second fall camp at the helm of Eastern Michigan's football program.

What he didn't expect was controversy caused by a Detroit Free Press column on Sunday that centered on a recent comment English made about favoring players on the recruiting trail who grew up with a father in the household.

While the story used on a portion of comments English made at the Mid-American Conference media day last month in Detroit, English said it was not his intention to sell single mothers short.

"It was my error," English told Monday afternoon. "Where I've been, in high-profile situations, you always have to be very careful about what you say. But I want to say I made a mistake."

English, who held defensive coordinator positions at Michigan and Louisville prior to being hired at Eastern Michigan, has an interesting family background.

His mother, who was divorced from his father at the time of English's birth, died when her son was 18 months old. A legal battle followed and English was raised by his grandmother without his grandfather being present until the age of 13. English then was forced to turn to uncles and youth coaches for positive role models - a point he said he was trying to make during his comments in Detroit.

At media day, English was asked about his incoming class of recruits. In a conversation that also talked about a lack of toughness exhibited by his team, which was 0-12 last season, English said:

"You know what the real focus was? We wanted to recruit football players that love football. I felt like we had a lot of guys who really didn't love football. They maybe were playing football so that they could go to school or whatever, but not for the love of playing football.

"So when we went out, we wanted to do two things. We wanted players who love football, who have the physical ability to play football and then the other thing we wanted was guys that could be coached. We wanted guys that had a father in their background because if you don't, the hard part is, some guy like me coming in and corrects you. So you're working - that's a whole another dynamic. A guy that's raised by his mom - and please don't take me wrong - but the reality is, you have to teach that guy how to be taught by a man. That's part of it."

On Monday, English clarified his comment that he often finds difficulty in dealing with players who do not have a father figure in their lives. He said some players become offended when English or his assistants correct them in practice.

Given his own background, English said he can't understand how he could be viewed as a person with a problem with single mothers.

"I don't know how you could say that. It doesn't even make sense," English said. "I know with families with the way they are today, there are going to be divorces and there are going to be single parents.

"As a program, if we said, 'We're only recruiting players with two parents in the home, our recruiting pool would go from big to very small."

English said he was made aware of the controversy Monday morning when Eastern Michigan athletic director Derrick Gragg showed him a copy of Sunday's Free Press story.

Gragg said he had discussed the matter with his superiors before meeting with English.

Gragg said he was concerned when he saw the Free Press story Sunday because he knew it could possibly be taken the wrong way. But Gragg, who hired English after former coach Jeff Genyk was fired, said he believed English's comments were taken out of context.

English will not face any disciplinary action, Gragg said. "We're all public officials, and we want to make sure that people understand what we were actually trying to say," Gragg said Monday. "I think him being proactive wanting to address this was necessary and was the right thing to do."

Jeff Arnold covers sports for and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by email at Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.



Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 7:02 p.m.

I did not read Sunday's paper regarding the statement that was made by English. Though I have read his apology, and I have also read some if not all the comments! If someone had of had the thought process as he has I don't think he would have made it this far. There were people that came into his life and made a difference! Not all young men that are from single parent homes run into trouble let alone dysfunctional. You have some 2 parent family that are one way outside but behind close doors just as dysfunctional as a single parent It works both ways, and there are some single women out there that have position themselves as well as their son's to have the right people (Men) in there lives.. That also go to say to say that they can position themselves with the wrong people (Men)as well. I do believe that at that time in moment he was not truly thinking. Let's just say at that time his cup had a hole in it. Not Full nor was it 1/2. And if he is aware that in his position you have to be careful what you say! Just chalk it up as OH Well, make the adjustments, think before you speak. And don't judge a book by it cover! One day you will be fooled....


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 11:36 a.m.

Sorry, all you big, strong, macho men, but as the single mother who raised two sons to be honest, upstanding citizens of the community, I find what Coach English said to be not only offensive, but broad-range stereotyping. Frankly, it sounds like he's excusing himself for his own failure to communicate. If he, the product of being raised by his single grandmother, cannot communicate with young men raised by single mothers, it's his lack, not the players. Don't blame the Free Press or anyone other than the man, himself, for what came out of his mouth. It's not so much what he said, but the attitude behind it that's offensive here.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

We are going to lose a lot of decent, well-meaning, hard-working coaches, politicians, etc IF we continue to snipe from the sidelines while they try to make this world a better place. Get over it, people. I cannot even imagine having a microphone shoved in my face 24/7 asking for me to come up with answers for the world's problems on the spur of the moment. God! do we have a lot of "holier/smarter than thou" jerks sitting on their butts with nothing better to do than tear others down. Why not get up and out and do something positive to change the world.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

We are going to lose a lot of decent, well-meaning, hard-working coaches, politicians, etc IF we continue to snipe from the sidelines while they try to make this world a better place. Get over it, people. I cannot even imagine having a microphone shoved in my face 24/7 asking for me to come up with answers for the world's problems on the spur of the moment. God! do we have a lot of "holier/smarter than thou" jerks sitting on their butts with nothing better to do than tear others down. Why not get up and out and do something positive to change the world.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 11:48 p.m.

Many comments on this story seem to trash the author of the Free Press article, Mike McCabe, by saying that he took English's comments out of context and did not provide real journalism. This isn't true at all - if you read McCabe's article. His article, at, says "English was given ample opportunity to explain his seemingly moronic and sexist comments, but declined to return several phone messages." Why didn't English call McCabe back to explain? This isn't the author's fault. When English didn't bother to explain himself, why shouldn't the journalist take English's comments at face value?


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

If EMU had gone 12-0 last year, we'd be calling English a man of great principle, with high standards and integrity. He would be seen as someone who demands more of his players and expects them to be coachable! Bottom line, if you win you can say anything!. But since he went 0-12, he's a bum who can't teach or motivate. IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT WINNING!


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

English was speaking from his own experiences. He owes an apology to no one. The focus should not be on his comments. It should be on the fact that there are so many kids growing up without a positive male influence.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

"Blacks are far superior at sports than white folks." "Latchkey kids are anarchists and criminals." The statements above are not just false, but stereotypes and do nothing to motivate kids of any color.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

Coach English is correct! And because he is correct, he will be hammered by those in the community who wish to continue the social conditions that he describes. Do not apologize, Coach English!


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

Lets face it - we live in a world where you cant say anything about anyone w.o someone being offended... so public officials have to watch what they say and as a result, we get sanitized answers to questions... people who want to be offended will be - no matter what is said! my only problem with this issue is that EMU football finally made the news, but for all the wrong reasons and that is on the coach! the only question people should be asking is about when we will win a game and can we improve this year?


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

I think the most important criteria in a football coach is his ability to motivate his players to win football games. R.English hasn't shown that ability yet.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 9:07 a.m.

Stating the obvious in society today is not acceptable. Everything must be run through the spin make it bland, acceptable to all humanity and frankly...dishonest.

Blue Eyes

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

stunhsif - Single parent homes are not BROKEN homes and to imply that parents who stay together provide a better home is ridiculous. In most cases, single parent homes are much better than if the other parent had stayed. There are many Ozzie & Harriet homes that SHOULD be single parent homes.

Jeff Gaynor

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Dave66's comment ("any teacher... can always tell which children come from intact families and which ones don't") gets to the heart of a key issue. You can generalize, but if you then stereotype you do a disservice to any individual. The coach generalized, and the columnist replied with specific examples to counter the stereotype. As a veteran teacher, yes, I get to know family background, as I get to know each student, but no teacher "can always tell." One may understand the challenges of being raised by a single parent, as one does other factors, but generalizing serves neither the teacher (or coach), nor the student. Perhaps the Mars/Venus issue fits under the same umbrella.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 7:11 a.m.

I see no reason whatsoever why Ron English should have to apologize. He has formed an opinion based on his coaching experiences with his players. The people who are taking offense are actually helping to prove his point.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 6:52 a.m.

I'm with BigMike... I'm not sure what the real source of controversy is. Is the problem that he noticed that fatherless boys have issues? Or is the problem that he noticed out loud? I think it must be because he said it out loud. It's like if you see someone really ugly at the mall. You don't go up to them and say, "Wow, you're really ugly!" No, you just think that quietly to yourself and go on with your day. Some things are obvious and just don't have to be said. Spend more than 2 minutes talking with any teacher, coach, or other person who deals with children and they'll all say the same thing -- They can always tell which children come from intact families and which ones don't. If you're one of the many people who grew up that way, go ahead and be mad if you want, but it won't change anything.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 5:19 a.m.

Then racerx he should find another job. Often coaches, teachers and others have to be roles models for younger people it has been like this all throught history. Bring a coach IS being a mentor, teacher and role model! And as for being a role model English get a falure mark from me in this regards. And sunset you are being CP by calling me PC. Calling someone PC is just away of trying to belittle, demean and intimate someone.


Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 3:16 a.m.

@BigMike-couldn't agree more? Whoever thought his comments were wrong are looking for something that simply isn't there. Dang. It's so hard to be truthful these days. And, he's a coach, not these students fathers or role model. Role models should be parents, not athletes, rappers, TV/movie stars etc. Mr English wants to coach, not raise boys into men; that's what parents are for!


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:59 p.m.

Virtually any study done on this issue backs what I said in my above post, nuff said! You can get all upset and say it didn't happen to me and my siblings but the overall statistics do not lie.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:50 p.m.

One common definition of political correctness, kat, is to doggedly insist on enforced equivalency of outcome without regard to the facts. Another hallmark of this thoroughly mediocre life view is the refusal to accept an apology that does not reinforce the political viewpoint of the person determined to take offense.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:44 p.m.

I think he made a mistake. We all make them. Best to own up to it and get on with it. There are plenty of boys who grow up with a really bad father figure, an abuser. Frequently women are made to feel guilty for leaving an abusive relationship, told it will hurt the kids, especially the boys. Sometimes a woman will be convinced to stay with an abuser for this reason, too. I think the kids who grow up with a loving single mother are far ahead of those with an abusive father and an abused mother. If you have two loving parents, you will be better off still, I have no doubt, but that's not always possible. Also, I see the "no father in the home" excuse being used to justify all kinds of bad behavior. I don't buy it. This is part of that stereotype, too. If his statement was genuine, perhaps the coach learned something and we can just leave it behind.

David Briegel

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

stunhsif, I guess it is only discrimination against white people that you oppose! All other is fair game?


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

amazing how low the freep will go in trying to get a story going. English has always been a good coach and he shares what he is looking for on the recruiting trail and the freep wants to make a big deal out of it. Funnt thing RR was more willing to take chances on players and they were all over him for that. Just what do they feel is the ideal path to take? I do not think it matters they just want controversy to sell papers. To heck with the freep. Good luck Ron and I hope you have a great season.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

And also I found his apology lacking, it isn't just the mothers but the children that need the apology! And I think it is funny that some people like to use the "PC" thing against people that they have a disagreement with. That is for you sunset.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 7:29 p.m.

Hey Macabre! you haven't a clue what being PC is! "A guy that's raised by his mom - and please don't take me wrong - but the reality is, you have to teach that guy how to be taught by a man. That's part of it." This is pure BS!

David Briegel

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 7:06 p.m.

I'm sorry, but I expect much better from Mr. English. I have always admired him and I am extremely disappointed in both his original mistake and his apology. I would suggest a basic psychology class and a sociology class. Remedial work is in order! As an influential figure and a role model he has fallen way short in this matter.

Stephen Landes

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 6:18 p.m.

Another idea one can take away from Coach English's comments is that men who have children, whether they are married to the mother, divorced, or were never married, need to take responsibility for their children and be the man their children need. Be a man yourself and do the best that you can to raise those children. No one expects perfection, but you are expected to do your best. For some children it takes another person or organization to fill the need: Scouting, church, teacher, neighbor, or the military. All are fine helpers, but nothing is better than the best efforts of both parents.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 5:56 p.m.

Katmando, kudos to you for working through a difficult situation but you've kinda proved the point of many of us. English didn't not say that fatherless kids are not worthy, rather, his point is that there are added issues when trying to coach one of these young men. Everything else being equal, any coach would likely prefer not to have to deal with this.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

Sounds like you have a determination to be offended, katmando. Very common in today's PC society. English clarified his comments, and apologized for the implication of his original statement. Makes sense to me, and I have no problem with it. I'm well aware that my son will need extra mentoring since he's growing up without me in his life every day.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

Dear BigMike: Everything! It is demeaning and belittling to us who have had to growup with one or in my case nether parent. It is a slap in the face of me and all of my brothers and sisters that had to growup basicly on our own. I dropped out of school basicly and was living the streets when I 15, I join the Marines at 17 and 2 days, I earned my GED, went to 4 years of community college, got a BBA and Masters from Eastern.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 5:02 p.m.

I didn't have a mother or father I was raised in a foster home with no father figure what would have to say about me? And to Stunhif: I don't think so I subsitute teach and I see it about the same. And when I finally did meet my father it was just as well that he didn't raise me.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

The Free Press is more of a tabloid rather than a news paper. It seems to relish in digging up dirt or controversial issues just to get the shock value, rather than report on the important news issues of the day. The it going...another tabloid....I really do miss the A2 News...


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:48 p.m.

Another case of people crticising someone's comments without reading the entire text. He is a good man speaking from his own experience.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:47 p.m.

Mr. English said nothing that needed an apology in my opinion, he was just being honest. Children that come from single family homes with no father figure get into more trouble whether it be on the football field or in the classroom. Given the choice between two athletes with equal talent I would take the kid that came from a unbroken household. As well, the kid that has a Mom and Dad at home probably has better grades as well.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Besides English being right about it being tougher to mentor boys who grew up in a household without a male role model, what's offensive about his statement?