Muchnick Declaration: University of California in a ‘Tawdry’ Attempt to Squelch Investigation of Circumstances of Ted Agu Football Death

Published April 9th, 2018, Uncategorized

I, Irvin Muchnick, declare under penalty of perjury as follows:

1. I am Petitioner in the above-styled lawsuit and make these statements based on my personal knowledge.

2. I am an independent journalist of 48 years’ experience who has authored three books, hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and a line of ebooks. In 2016, during my federal Freedom of Information Act case against the Department of Homeland Security, which would eventually settle in 2017 at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Charles R. Breyer referred to me as “an accomplished journalist” in an order denying defendant’s motion for summary judgment. On the acknowledgments page of his 2012 autobiography Over Time, Frank Deford, a legendary author, writer for Sports Illustrated, correspondent for HBO’s Real Sports, and commentator for National Public Radio, thanked me for “dogged reporting on Vince McMahon,” chair of WWE, whose wife Linda McMahon is now administrator of the Small Business Administration. On the front cover of my most recent book, Concussion Inc.: The End of Football As We Know It, Mr. Deford supplied to my publisher the promotional blurb: “Magnificent investigative reporting.”

3. I have been covering the important issue of deaths in college football since 2001, when I developed a book proposal on the death of Rashidi Wheeler at Northwestern University. The circumstances of the Wheeler death had striking similarities to that of Ted Agu at the University of California at Berkeley in 2014: both occurred during offseason conditioning drills in the presence only of assistant coaches, not head coaches, and as such the sessions did not count against National Collegiate Athletic Association rules limiting team practices. The Wheeler and Agu deaths also both included controversial narratives with respect to the emergency response and the causes of death, and both resulted in multimillion-dollar lawsuit settlements between the respective universities and the families of the decedents. An example of the extensive media coverage of the Rashidi Wheeler case is “Judge Orders Approval of Wheeler Settlement,” Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2005, http://articles.latimes.com/2005/aug/16/sports/sp-wheeler16. Another important similarity between the Wheeler case and what I would learn about the Agu case was alleged malfeasance on the part of the university football team physician. See “Doctor destroyed records from Wheeler’s physical,” ESPN, July 18, 2003, http://a.espncdn.com/ncf/news/2003/0718/1582449.html.

4. The public interest justification for my investigative reporting and the public records requests in dispute in this case is explained explicitly and in detail to this Court in the Petition and its accompanying exhibits.

5. The Agu death occurs in the context of a national policy discussion of football player deaths, sexual abuse cover-ups and other scandals in college sports, some of which involve malfeasance or even criminal conduct on the part of top university officials. The examples from recent history are many and dramatic, including:

* The sexual abuses of Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the cover-up that culminated in the convictions and imprisonment of the university’s president and two other top administrators, as well as the removal of a statue honoring the late head coach Joe Paterno. In the wake of this scandal, the university commissioned a highly critical investigation authored by Louis Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Director Freeh’s report can be read in full at http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-freeh-report-sandusky-pennstate-20120712-pdf-htmlstory.html.

* The sexual abuses of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar. See “What MSU Knew: 14 Were Warned of Nassar Abuse,” Detroit News, https://www.detroitnews.com/story/tech/2018/01/18/msu-president-told-nassar-complaint2014/1042071001/.

* Campus rapes by football players at Baylor University, which led to the resignation of the university president, Kenneth Starr, a formerly prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer. See “Baylor faces accusations of ignoring sex assault victims,” ESPN, July 13, 2017, http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/14675790/baylor-officials-accused-failinginvestigate-sexual-assaults-fully-adequately-providing-support-alleged-victims.

* Death of University of Central Florida football player Ereck Plancher in 2008. See “Jury finds UCF negligent in Ereck Plancher’s death,” Associated Press, July 1, 2011, http://www.espn.com/college-football/news/story?id=6726571. The significance of this case includes the connections to Agu’s. Like Agu, Plancher died during an offseason conditioning drill in what ultimately, but not at first, was attributed to what is called in the medical literature Exertional Collapse Associated with Sickle Cell Trait (ECAST). Further, an assistant athletic trainer at the scene of the Plancher death, Robert Jackson, was the Cal football head athletic trainer at the scene of the Agu death.

6. Any suggestion by Respondent that my journalistic investigation of the Agu death is driven by an agenda of trading on or invading the privacy of individual student-athletes is false and misguided. The naming of three student-athletes in my California Public Records Act requests to the campus compliance officer was strictly for the purpose of presenting my requests with appropriate specificity. With respect to the late Ted Agu, it should be noted that an interim ebook I have published with my findings, The Ted Agu Papers: A Black Life That Mattered — And the Secret History of a Covered-Up Death in University of California Football, available on Amazon Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Ted-Agu-Papers-Covered-Up-Universityebook/dp/B01JSTBSOU, sets aside one hundred percent of the royalties for donation to sickle cell trait research and education. With respect to the other two student-athletes named in the records requests, it should be noted that the altercation between the two student-athletes, which occurred a mere three months prior to the Agu death, was the subject of contemporaneous news media coverage, including my own, and only later, during discovery and depositions in the Agu family lawsuit, was it clear that the altercation was a possible precursor to the overall narrative of abuses of the Cal football strength and conditioning program and assistant coach Damon Harrington

7. Respondent criticizes my not “reasonably meeting and conferring with The Regents in connection with this initial [records] request.” This is nonsense. No provision for such a meeting or request for a meeting is anywhere in the published guidelines and procedures for requests. No such meeting was ever proposed by anyone at the university. There is simply no basis for asserting or suggesting that the administrative processing of such requests involves anything other than corresponding by email with the compliance office coordinator or other administrators.

8. Respondent states that the email accounts of “seven individuals” were searched as an output of meet and confer discussions. For the Court’s reference, these seven are: Nicholas B. Dirks (former chancellor), John Wilton (former vice chancellor), Sandy Barbour (former athletics director), Mike Williams (former athletics director), Solly Fulp (former deputy athletics director), Ryan Cobb (associate athletics director), and Dr. Casey Batten (former football team head physician).

9. Respondent states that “there is minimal, if any, public interest … relating to the participation of two students in an altercation at their college.” As noted in paragraph 6 above, the record clearly shows that this incident is central to allegations of systemic defects in the football strength and conditioning program that helped create the conditions for the Agu death. The documented evidence exists that shows that another student-athlete gave an anguished interview with the campus police in which he described a direct connection between the November 2013 player physical altercation and the February 2014 Agu death. According to a deposition transcript that I read, the same student-athlete expounded on this theme in a deposition in the Agu family lawsuit. To contend that there is no public interest in the circumstances of the altercation is a tawdry attempt to bury and denigrate the very nexus and results of my investigative reporting.

 

Executed in Berkeley, California on April 8, 2018

 

Irvin Muchnick

 

Concussion Inc. brief,  http://muchnick.net/responsebriefucvaughn.pdf

Muchnick declaration, http://muchnick.net/muchnickdecucvaughn.pdf

Gordet declaration, http://muchnick.net/gordetdecucvaughn.pdf

UC Regents brief, http://muchnick.net/ucvaughnbrief.pdf

 

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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-compatible devices at http://amzn.to/2aA2LDl. All royalties are being donated to sickle cell trait research and education.

Op-ed article for the Daily Californian on my Public Records Act lawsuit: http://www.dailycal.org/2017/04/25/lawsuit-uc-regents-emblematic-issues-facing-college-football/

“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