San Francisco Chronicle ‘Big-Foots’ Concussion Inc.’s Investigation of University of California Football’s Ted Agu Death Scandal — And Continues to Tell Only Half the Story

San Francisco Chronicle Comes to Life: ‘Critics Question Cal’s Probe Into Football Coach’s Actions’
June 29, 2016
University of California Releases 2014 Internal Review of Football Strength Coach Damon Harrington; Asserts That Player’s Police Statement Is Exempt From Public Disclosure
June 30, 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 San Francisco Chronicle’s better-late-than-never reporting on some of the open policy wounds of the cover-up of the root cause of University of California-Berkeley football player Ted Agu’s 2014 death — linked at our previous post early this morning — is a classic case of what’s known in the journalism trade as “big-footing.”

This process was well dramatized by the old Warner Brothers cartoon episode “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.” As they headed off on what would turn into a wild encounter with Marvin Martian, commander Daffy Duck wondered aloud to crew member Porky Pig, How will we find Planet X? Porky’s advice, stuttering but straightforward, was this: just follow Planets A, B, C, D, et al. until you get to X. However, it took a while for the intemperate waterfowl to heed the advice — at which point Daffy marveled at his own singular find and genius.

Big-footing or not, the Chronicle does have many more readers than Concussion Inc., so let’s hope today’s story does some good.

But since the San Francisco Bay Area’s Hearst-owned newspaper of record already has badly botched the Agu story for years, setting back the public’s full understanding of systematic lack of accountability for both the death and surrounding incidents, and from the very top of the Cal organizational chart, significant footnotes remain.


Will the Chronicle publish the Joey Mahalic police statement and press the Alameda County district attorney for an investigation of its cover-up?

Almost from the very start, it was apparent that head football coach Sonny Dykes’ strength and conditioning assistant, Damon Harrington, was the central figure in Agu’s several collapses, the final one fatal, during a weird and unprofessionally conceived “toughness” exercise on February 7, 2014.

Harrington also was the proximate cause of player J.D. Hinnant’s savage beating of teammate Fabiano Hale just three months earlier — November 1, 2013. Yet the Chronicle never reported in depth on the “Code Red” by Harrington that precipitated Hinnant’s criminal assault. Indeed, the newspaper still has not even named Hinnant, on the grounds that the Alameda County district attorney never pursued charges.

The truth is a bit trickier than that. The county prosecutor actually deferred charges against Hinnant, and the three-year criminal statute of limitations on the incident doesn’t expire for four more months. So will the Chronicle join this reporter in asking District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office whether they are reviewing the March 2014 police statement by former player Mahalic for the purpose of considering charges against Harrington for criminally inciting Hinnant? And while they’re at it, to investigate whether there was a criminal cover-up by campus police or administrators in not forwarding the Mahalic statement to county prosecutors?


Why publishing the Mahalic statement is crucial.

The Chronicle’s seriously flawed front-page story on the Agu case in January of this year bordered on malpractice dressed up as hype.

The article was based on the very same deposition transcripts from the Agu family’s civil lawsuit (later settled for $4.75 million) that Concussion Inc. would acquire and report on, and will soon publish as part of the “Ted Agu Papers” ebook to support sickle cell trait research.

Yet the Chronicle and its super-insider partner — Lowell Bergman’s Investigative Reporting Program at the Berkeley graduate school of journalism — wrote not a peep about Mahalic’s police statement, which was described in detail, with obvious “Code Red” overtones, in the player’s lawsuit deposition. (Nor did they report the related Mahalic deposition testimony. When Concussion Inc. began prying into the matter, Bergman haughtily informed Concussion Inc. that he would take “under advisement” an inquiry regarding full publication of the primary-source materials.)

Now that the Chron has found religion and finally reported on the Mahalic testimony, there is no reason for a skeptical public not to believe that the big guns of local corporate journalism are rolling out at their own sweet pace deadly pertinent material on the criminal element in Cal football coaching and higher administration of a program that has just set California taxpayers back to the tune of nearly five million bucks.

And all without a scintilla of evidence that anything or anyone other than the already strapped general campus budget will be paying consequences for de facto negligent homicide.

As readers here know, Concussion Inc. has in the California Public Records Act pipeline requests for both the Mahalic police statement and a pathetically rigged “review” of Harrington’s strength and conditioning program by UC Davis sports medicine doc Jeffrey Tanji and Cal coaching staff crony John Murray. Since Chronicle coverage refers to already having in hand both documents, there is absolutely no excuse for the university not to cough them up to us, and soon.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick