Cal Campus Police Gave Media Incomplete Account of Football Coaches’ Role in Investigation of 2013 Player-on-Player Assault

TED AGU PAPERS: Cal ‘Suspended’ Football Strength Coach Damon Harrington For One Day After Complaint About His ‘Style’
April 27, 2016
George Gibney FOIA Latest: Parties to Confer With Judge Breyer on May 20
April 29, 2016
TED AGU PAPERS: Cal ‘Suspended’ Football Strength Coach Damon Harrington For One Day After Complaint About His ‘Style’
April 27, 2016
George Gibney FOIA Latest: Parties to Confer With Judge Breyer on May 20
April 29, 2016

“Explainer: How ‘Insider’ Access Made San Francisco Chronicle and Berkeley J-School Miss Real Story Behind Death of Cal Football’s Ted Agu,”

Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series:

Installments to date in THE TED AGU PAPERS:




by Irvin Muchnick

The University of California-Berkeley campus police preemptively told the news media that the role of the football coaching staff was not part of the investigation of the 2013 assault of football player Fabiano Hale by his teammate J.D. Hinnant. The police did so even though, members of the football team say, it was well known that strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington had directed those who were unhappy over a “punishment drill” — precipitated by Hale’s absence from a workout — to take matters into their own hands in confronting him.

Questions about the complicity of campus police in covering up the Hinnant-Hale incident are an offshoot of Concussion Inc.’s reporting on and eventual publication of “The Ted Agu Papers” — documents recording the secret history of the background of the death of Agu in February 2014 during an early-morning conditioning drill. UC recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the Agu family for $4.75 million.

Deposition transcripts from the lawsuit obtained by Concussion Inc. — documents also in the possession of, though not fully reported on by, the San Francisco Chronicle and its reporting partners at the Cal Graduate School of Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program — show that a football player who also was part of Hinnant and Hale’s “non-travel group” gave a statement in March 2014 to the Alameda County sheriff in which the player expressed concerns about Coach Harrington’s verbal abuse and extreme methods. The player also spoke in detail about how Harrington addressed the group regarding Hale’s missed session, arguably inciting Hinnant’s attack.

The player’s police statement came four months after the player-on-player assault and one month after Agu’s death. In the former incident, the Alameda County district attorney, in a form of pre-prosecution probation, “deferred” criminal charges against Hinnant.

The attack occurred on November 1, 2013. Four days later the Cal athletic department issued a statement in which it denounced “a lot of misinformation being reported.”

On November 9, campus police Lieutenant Marc DeCoulode told the Chronicle there was no evidence that head coach Sonny Dykes “had any knowledge of this.”

But a new investigation by Cal faculty member Brian Barsky, a critic of the athletic department, has revealed that while Hale was in Alta Bates Hospital on Saturday, November 2, still recovering from a concussion sustained the day before in Hinnant’s attack on him, Hinnant himself was suited up for the game that day against Arizona.

It is unusual for non-travel-group players to be given the privilege of being in uniform on the sidelines for a game. Hinnant also was a “redshirt” — a designation for a player who is kept out of game action for a year, either for development or to recover from an injury, without exhausting his eligibility.

Just how unusual is the dressing of a non-travel and redshirt player is not yet known. The answer to that question will contribute to understanding whether Hinnant’s honor that day amounted to a reward, from Dykes in particular or from the coaching staff as a whole, for what Hinnant did to Hale.

In a telephone interview, Lieutenant DeCoulode insisted that his statements to the media in November 2013 were accurate. “Beyond that, I don’t have any need to discuss the case,” he told me. “It’s over and done with.” He refused to address the deposition testimony or the new information about Hinnant suiting up for the Arizona game the day after the police incident.

On email, campus police chief Margo Bennett declined comment.

The Cal athletic department did not respond to a query asking for a listing of the redshirt players who dressed for football games in 2013. Concussion Inc. will be contacting the National Collegiate Athletic Association to find out whether there are rules regarding redshirts in uniform, and regarding transparency in this practice.

Comments are closed.

Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick