Paging UC Davis Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Jeffrey Tanji; ‘Reviewed’ Cal Football Strength Coach Damon Harrington After Player-on-Player Assault and Ted Agu Death

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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,”

Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series:

Installments to date in THE TED AGU PAPERS:

by Irvin Muchnick


In Concussion Inc.’s report four days ago from “The Ted Agu Papers,” we showed that Cal football strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington — in deposition testimony in the Agu family’s ultimate $4.75 million wrongful death settlement with the university — somewhat incoherently admitted that his program had undergone some kind of review by a doctor and another strength and conditioning coach.

The conditioning industry peer’s first name is John, and we’ve learned his last name as well and reached out to him. More on that later. Let’s focus first on the doctor: Jeffrey Tanji, co-director of the sports medicine program at the UC Davis Medical Center.

Tanji has not responded to two faxed messages asking for his elaboration for this story.

After not hearing from Tanji, I asked for help from Nick Eversole, the UC Davis assistant vice chancellor for human health sciences. My query sought to know (a) who hired Tanji for the Harrington review, and what were its precise mission and outcome, and (b) what are the protocols and disclosure requirements for outside consulting by UC Davis Medical Center faculty.

On (a), Harrington’s deposition testimony suggested that the upshot was that Cal suspended him for one whole day as a consequence of complaints about his “coaching style.”

On (b), there is the corollary question as to whether the commissioning of a UC Davis consultant by UC Berkeley constituted conflict of interest, or confluence of interest — especially in the face of the entire university system’s multimillion-dollar exposure in the Agu case.

UC Davis immediately promised to respond, but the response turned out to be smoke and mirrors. In a five-minute phone call at deadline on Thursday, a spokesperson for the med center sports medicine group said Dr. Tanji couldn’t be located — but yes indeed, rest assured the institution has an ethics policy. I told the spokesperson I was rolling over publication of this story until the weekend, and asked her to use Friday to redouble efforts to find the mysterious Tanji and to provide specific answers to my questions.

The spokesperson herself then went missing in action. I theorize that the entire PR staff at Davis, as bloated there as anywhere, is busy these days fielding questions about the corrupt campus chancellor, Linda Katehi, who last week was placed on leave by UC system president Janet Napolitano.

Efforts continue here to tell the full story of the “review” of Damon Harrington — after a player went to the Alameda County sheriff, a month subsequent to Ted Agu’s fatal coronary in February 2014 during an over-the-top, custom-designed conditioning drill. The player told police, among other things, that Harrington probably had incited J.D. Hinnant to beat down teammate Fabiano Hale in retribution for Hale’s skipping a workout and prompting Harrington to put the entire group of non-traveling players through a sadistic, vomit-inducing punishment drill.

The UC Berkeley chancellor’s office has promised to comply with Concussion Inc.’s earlier California Public Records Act request for internal documents regarding all this.

The sheriff and the Alameda County district attorney are considering separate requests for public disclosure of the whistleblowing player’s police statement.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick