With National Focus on New Oregon and Northern Michigan Cases, Heat Is on Cal Football For Honest Second Review of Strength and Conditioning Program

Published January 18th, 2017, Uncategorized

Concussion Inc.’s ebook THE TED AGU PAPERS: A Black Life That Mattered — And the Secret History of a Covered-Up Death in University of California Football is available on Kindle-friendly devices at http://amzn.to/2aA2LDl. One hundred percent of royalties are being donated to sickle cell trait research and education.

 

by Irvin Muchnick

Yesterday we mentioned the outbreak of rhabdomyolysis — a muscle breakdown syndrome that can cause death — in University of Oregon football offseason conditioning. The story has accelerated with word that the responsible Oregon strength and conditioning coach, Irele Oderinde, has been suspended.

Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com weighed in with an excellent piece, “College football’s unchecked conditioning culture is dangerous for players,” http://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/college-footballs-unregulated-conditioning-culture-is-dangerous-for-all-players/. Dodd, correctly, tied the Oregon story to the deaths of other athletes, most recently Ted Agu at the University of California-Berkeley, from exertional sickle cell trait attacks. Dodd also quoted the University of Oklahoma athletic trainer Scott Anderson, a leading researcher of the subject, on what Anderson called the “Junction Boys” mentality of football coaches. The term refers to the now-iconic 1954 summer boot camp of Bear Bryant in Junction, Texas, when he was coaching Texas A&M.

Today brings news of a new death in college football, though without known details or cause at this point: Anthony Herbert, a 20-year-old offensive lineman at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. See http://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/2017/01/17/northern-michigan-football-anthony-herbert-dies/96695802/.

The cluster of winter workout grave health and death incidents is a reminder that Cal, approaching the third anniversary of the Agu episode — which could reasonably be classified as manslaughter — is still dragging its feet on an accounting. That is, unless you consider a $4.75 million payment to the family of the victim a full public-interest accounting. I don’t.

Head coach Sonny Dykes recently got fired for unrelated reasons. And it has been confirmed that strength and conditioning assistant Damon Harrington is out, too, in routine new-regime housecleaning.

As for the second outside review of the Cal strength and conditioning program, we’re still waiting. Ryan Cobb, the associate athletic director, in coordination with Christopher Patti, the chief campus counsel, controlled and orchestrated every aspect of the first review in 2014 — a one-day whitewash applied by a UC Davis doctor, Jeffrey Tanji, who is a crony of Cal football’s then team physician, Casey Batten. (With apparent unintended irony, Cobb called it “the ‘review.’”)

When these details emerged last year, the contours of a cover-up of a cover-up took shape. The very reason for the review was that strength coach Harrington, in quick and unchecked succession, had created an environment in which one player, J.D. Hinnant, brutally beat up another, Fabiano Hale, and then in which Ted Agu died, without attention to his known exertional sickling vulnerability, during an unprofessional early morning hill-climbing and rope-pulling festival of “toughness” practices.

In the face of criticism, Nicholas Dirks, Cal’s lame-duck chancellor, directed the commissioning of a Review 2.0. The co-authors of this new study, Dr. Elizabeth Joy, president of the American College of Sports Medicine, and Wayne Brazil, a retired law professor, are supposed to submit their report this spring. Presumably, during the current January phase of the review, Joy and Brazil are, in the words of the press release, “spending a significant amount of time on campus observing the program and conducting interviews with strength and conditioning coaches, sport coaches, athletic trainers, physicians, and other medical staff, administrators and the student athletes that these professionals serve.”

However, it is not known if the football program upheaval, with the dismissal of Dykes and the hiring of his successor Justin Wilcox, has affected this timeline. Dr. Joy, who previously communicated with Concussion Inc., did not respond to our email yesterday.

Joy also refuses to release her charge letter and consulting contract. The university told us they’re working on it.

Not exactly a model of transparency. And with the Agu death controversies dovetailing with renewed national focus on the excesses of college football offseason conditioning, nothing less than full transparency is acceptable.

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“Explainer: How ‘Insider’ Access Made San Francisco Chronicle and Berkeley J-School Miss Real Story Behind Death of Cal Football’s Ted Agu,” http://concussioninc.net/?p=10931

Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series: http://concussioninc.net/?p=10877