TED AGU PAPERS: Close Friend Describes Multiple Collapses During Fatal Drill ‘Like an Army Movie’; Coach Harrington’s Taunt ‘Berkeley Was Making Us Soft’; Transfer in Disgust After Cal Lied to Players

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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,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=10931

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

Installments to date in THE TED AGU PAPERS:








by Irvin Muchnick

One of Ted Agu’s close friends on the Cal football team, who watched the player collapse multiple times during a conditioning drill in a scene “kind of like an Army movie” — then was present when Agu was pronounced dead at the hospital — testified in a deposition that the sequence of events so disillusioned him that he transferred to another school’s football program.

Agu’s friend said his disillusionment stemmed from the obvious lies the players were told by university officials regarding the circumstances of the death.

This deponent in the Agu family’s lawsuit against the University of California system, which recently settled for $4.75 million, also reinforced others’ testimony about the “toughness” culture instilled by strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington. Toughness “was his go-to speech,” the player said. “… [H]e said Berkeley was soft and it was making us soft.”

Below are additional excerpts from “The Ted Agu Papers,” which Concussion Inc. will be publishing in the near future as an ebook. All sales proceeds will benefit research on sickle cell trait, a contributing factor in Agu’s death.

These excerpts are from a June 3, 2015, deposition. Prior to publication of the ebook, we do not intend to name any player-deponents. As we publish excerpts, we are attempting to contact them with a view toward getting their permission to name them earlier.


Q. I came to know him when I first actually came to California and we had study hall for the first time…. And the first thing he said is y’all need any help, struggling in any classes, let me know and I’ll do my best to help y’all out. So that was our — my first encounter with Ted Agu. And from there the relationship grew…

A. […] How when you met him did that develop, if it did, into a friendship?

Q. From there to see that somebody truly cared about us off the field. Because, you know, when you’re recruited for football, they always give you the spiel about how, you know, family and this and that. But to know that somebody was truly there who truly cared about your academics along with your football, not even knowing your football ability, was incredible. So and then that garnered a friendship. We worked closely together. We were in a workout group together. So from there we gained a closer relationship and as some guy I knew I could count on.

A. And when you tell the folks on the jury that you had a close relationship, how well would you say you knew Ted Agu as a person?

Q. I’d say I knew him pretty well just like anybody else would. He had that kind of character about him. Open book, didn’t keep anything from you. So just like anybody else would say if you asked them about Ted Agu, you just felt like you knew him. So I would say we had a pretty close relationship.

Q. All right. So you saw him both in the football environment, in the academic environment. Did he do well academically, Ted Agu?

A. Yes, sir. Yes, he did very well.

Q. And as far as his dedication and his efforts, you were able to observe firsthand what he put into things?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. All right. Then tell the folks on the jury what type of person was Ted Agu to you.

A. Brilliant, just hard worker, intelligent, never complained. He was just an overall like one of those guys you were like that’s just a great guy. And just has all the intangibles coaches look for, you look for in a friend, you look for in a mentor. Just everything just fully encompassed, just a stand out guy.


Q. […] Was there pressure for the athletes to perform in that race [on February 7, 2014]?

A. Yes, sir, every competition, high pressure.

Q. Okay. And did Coach Harrington preach toughness? When I say “preach,” did he advocate toughness?

A. Yeah, that was his go to speech.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Anything, everything we did, you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to be tough.

Q. Did he ever make remarks to you about the players and the type of culture that he found in Berkeley?

A. Yeah, he said Berkeley was soft and it was making us soft.


Q. […] At the beginning of the race, who took the lead for your team?

A. Ted.

Q. […] The individual player, unlike a lot of the other drills, in this particular team designed [rope-pulling] drill, the players could not go at their own pace, could they?

A. No.

Q. Okay. There were no breaks, right?

A. No, sir.

Q. There was no rest?

A. No.

Q. And the coaches, were they urging — during this entire race period were they urging the players to keep moving?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Keep forging ahead?

A. Just like any competition.

Q. And you saw, you’ve already mentioned, a number of players struggling.

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you see a trainer — did you ever see, ever see a trainer go to a player’s assistance during that drill?

A. No, sir.

Q. Where was [athletic trainer] Robby Jackson?

A. The bottom of the hill.

Q. No question in your mind?

A. No.

Q. Did he ever move from the bottom of the hill?

A. No.

Q. Ted Agu led your team at the beginning of the race. Did he appear to be going as hard as he could?

A. Yes, sir, without a question in my mind.

Q. How long did Ted Agu lead the team? In other words, he was the number one guy on the rope?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. First up?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Okay. How long did he lead the team?

A. Five and a half [laps up and down the hill]…. On the sixth, on the sixth lap at the top … I vividly remember telling [Daniel] Lasko to switch position with Ted.

Q. Okay. It’s important you describe to the jury exactly what happened and why you asked Mr. Lasko to switch positions with Ted Agu.

A. Yes, sir. At the top of the fifth — I mean, top of the sixth. On the sixth lap at the top I looked and I was still encouraged and I was like let’s go, let’s go, Ted. And it was his look, it just unsettled me. It didn’t — he didn’t look right. It was just kind of a ghostly look. And I was like, no, something is wrong. So I told, I told Lasko, I said, hey, man, you need to get — you need to get in front. You need to take the lead because Ted is not looking — he’s not looking good. So from there they made the switch and Lasko took, took the lead…. [I am certain] it was lap six. Because I was counting to keep track for them.

Q. All right. Did, did Agu appear to be, in addition to what you’ve already described, ghostly and not right, did he appear to be struggling?

A. Yes, sir, he was…. At that point he was struggling a lot. Just looked like — he was feeling — he was getting sluggish, not able to really pull the other guys at this point. Because most of the burden is on the guy in the front…. [H]e was just looking a little sluggish and just kind of not himself and something I actually have never seen. So I made sure —

Q. Did you, did you go up to him? Did you — I mean, did you get close enough to see in his eyes?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did the look in his eyes have an impression to you?

A. Yes, sir, that’s why I made the call?

Q. What did the look — describe the look you saw.

A. He looked like he wasn’t there. He just wasn’t there.

Q. Okay. Was it a look — did he look exhausted or just exhaustion or what?

A. I guess exhaustion or just because he wasn’t there.

Q. Did it, did it cause you concern?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Describe if you can. You’ve talked about his eyes. Describe if you can to the jury any physical functinality that you observed in terms of exertion or lack of exertion to speed or lack of speed….

A. The look in his eyes was definitely — first of all, one I haven’t seen before really in kind of anybody. It was one — you have a look of exhaustion which is typical because we work out 24/7. But this was kind of just — I felt like he just wasn’t there. Like he was just looking at somebody and just say you’re not there kind of because he wasn’t responding to my encouragement or anything like that. No smile. It was just kind of like almost like a zombie like look to me.

Q. Was that something different than, than Mr. Agu used to usually do?

A. Yes, sir, very different. And that’s why, that’s why I made that call.

Q. Okay. How about his functions, did he appear to be moving slower than normal?

A. Yes, sir. And I didn’t know if that was from the pulling of the guys. So he wasn’t moving as fast as he normally would have if it was just him with the rope, but he was definitely, definitely struggling. And for me it was kind of weird because it was at the top of the hill, so I would think that would give him a little reprieve, you know, he can kind of loosen up. And you’re going down at that point. So it was definitely, definitely weird for me, very strange.

Q. Okay. When Ted Agu moved from the front to the back was there any, excuse me, any effect on his performance? Was there a drop in his performance?

A. He actually — from that point on his performance declined which I was taking note of because I’m thinking, okay, you don’t have the pressure on you anymore, somebody else is taking lead. So I thought that would be — that option would allow him to get, get his legs a bit and —

Q. But it didn’t?

A. It didn’t.

[…] Halfway down the ninth lap he fell. And that really didn’t settle with me at all. And he fell, he fell to his knees. Some of the players grabbed him and picked him up….

Q. [When did Agu first collapse?]

A. — on the ninth, on the ninth.

Q. About how long was he down?…

A. Probably 20 seconds. The team was quick to get him back up so they could finish.

Q. Okay. All right. Do you remember who, who his teammates were that, that helped him?

A. For some reason I’m remembering Fabiano Hale and I can’t think of the other person, but for some reason he resonates in my mind.

Q. But I want to be clear. No doubt in your mind these were teammates as opposed to any support staff like trainers or coaches or anybody like that coming to help one of the players?

A. No, they didn’t come. It was, it was team.

Q. All right. Let’s go ahead and continue. So this ninth lap, after about 20 seconds he’s brought to his feet by the players?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Reattached to this rope.

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And off he goes again?

A. (indicating)

Q. Same scenario, same look, same struggling?

A. Yes, sir…. Then at the beginning of the tenth lap he actually collapsed at the bottom. At that point it was about the same duration to get him up.

Q. And [athletic trainer] Jackson was located there [at the bottom of the hill], wasn’t he?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you see him do a thing for Mr. Agu?

A. He looked, but no.

Q. How was the collapse? Was it a slow taking to the knee? Was it a flop? What did it look like? Was it a —

A. A flop. I’d describe it…. NBA players taking a charge but going forward. Youknow, as they take — you know, but it was going forward and he fell on our fours.

Q. Did it scare you?

A. Yes, sir. The teammates grabbed him again because they were trying to finish. And at this point they actually tied the rope around his hip to get him to continue because he didn’t have any — he was just jello like.


At that point he had two guys, and that’s by Fabiano because I think he was towards the back of the line, and somebody else. It was kind of like an Army movie. You know how they got the — they’re carrying the guy, the wounded. They had two guys holding him up from either side actually. And they were carrying him up, and that’s where he collapsed for the third time, right before the, right before the bend in the — on the tenth lap. And he went to all fours again. And this time he didn’t get picked back up…. [O]ne of the coaches was running to assist him at that point….


Q. Let’s talk about post death. Were there meetings at University of California Berkeley?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. What kind of meetings?

A. […] I don’t remember how they all unfolded, but we had a team meeting. We had several team meetings and one like — I don’t know what his position. I think it was chancellor. Not chancellor.


The — yeah, the athletic director [then Sandy Barbour] and her staff was present and spoke upon it. And they just said there was some counseling services. And it was just a blur really. It was just a series of meetings.

Q. Okay. Were — was there any concern that the truth was not being told about what happened on the hill that day?


A. From me there was.

Q. What do you mean?

A. As I told my wife many times, I felt like it was kind of under wraps. Some of the things said at those meetings didn’t sit with me, and I just really felt like things weren’t being said as they were.

Q. Is it important to you that the truth be told about what happened to Ted Agu that day?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Why?

A. Because the truth is the most important thing. And even if nobody was at fault or this, this and — this and that and the other, just the truth needs to be said about the situation.

Q. You said this was one of the reasons why you left the University of California. If you can expand on that right now, what was going through your mind when you made that decision? It was a big decision for you, wasn’t it?

A. Yes, sir.


I vaguely remember calling my mom after this incident and just talking to some guys on the team and we actually — we started spring ball and I was out there on the practice field it was after the first day I was like I can’t do this. And I called my mom. I was like I just can’t trust them. Honestly, I don’t trust them. She was like, oh, baby, you need to stay, this and that. I was like, mom, you know, I love you. I respect you but I just — this is not where I want to be. And that’s when I decided to leave the program at that point. And it was really because of what happened. I talked to my wife about it and I said I just — I can’t trust this staff. And she was like, I understand, you know. Because she was actually — she happened to be in California at that point with me and she supported my decision so that’s why I’m here now.

Q. Why didn’t you trust them?


A. Because of, because of this incident, how it unfolded, the things they told us in the meetings. I just felt it was kind of put under the cover. And they were, oh, take the time you need working out. A week and a half afterwards it was just kind of like I don’t — the grieving process never really — we didn’t have a grieving process, and just how they kind of — well, we need to move on instead of giving the respect where it was due and the honor where it was needed. So I felt they like could have done that to anybody.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick