A well-respected football coach in Michigan is under fire after making questionable remarks in a group text message.
Screenshots of a conversation received by WNDU in South Bend, Ind., show Benton Harbor (Mich.) head football coach Elliot Uzelac allegedly responding to a picture of a black student standing in front of a car by saying “how much drugs did he sell to rent that,” followed by another message that reads “our local drug dealers are doing well.”
Uzelac has since apologized for the remarks. In a release from Benton Harbor received by WNDU, Uzelac wrote:
“I do regret and apologize for texting comments that were clearly inappropriate. Under no circumstances were these statements meant to be taken seriously. It has never been my intention to offend the Benton Harbor students or community.”
In the same release, Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker says, “This misstep is an unfortunate blemish on Coach Uzelac’s record of commitment and positive relationships with our Benton Harbor students.”
The 75-year-old Uzelac has had a long and illustrious coaching career that included an assistant stint in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns (1992) as well as head coaching jobs at both his alma mater of Western Michigan (1975-81) as well as Navy (1987-89). After returning to the prep ranks to coach at St. Joseph (Mich.) from 2006 to 2010, he came out of retirement in 2015 to take over a Benton Harbor team that hadn’t won a game in two seasons.
In 2015, he led the Tigers to their first playoff appearance in school history with a 6-5 record. In 2016, he was named the Detroit Free Press All-State Coach of the Year after leading the team to a 10-1 mark.
The school board is now considering its next steps regarding Uzelac’s future.