Chancellor Dirks Says Police Found That Football Strength Coach Damon Harrington Did ‘Nothing Wrong.’ Whom Did They Interview and When Did They Interview Them?

As University of California Re-Ups Football Strength Coach Damon Harrington, Here’s Inventory of Documents Neither Released by Public Officials Nor Published by SF Chronicle
July 10, 2016
UC Davis Promises Decision by July 19 on Release of Additional Records on Dr. Tanji’s 2014 Review of Berkeley Football Assistant Coach Damon Harrington
July 13, 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


University of California-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks last week made a statement about Damon Harrington — football coach Sonny Dykes’ embattled strength and conditioning assistant — that is revealing of the kind of intellectual slop we get as the leader of an institution of higher education rolls in the pigpen of big-time football.

In November 2013, after player J.D. Hinnant beat up teammate Fabiano Hale for missing a Harrington-directed workout, the new Dirks statement says, “the matter was referred to the UC police department,” and in December, “the findings of the police investigation were then referred to the Alameda district attorney, who declined to file charges in the matter.” The chancellor’s statement adds, “Because some people asked whether Coach Harrington may have had some responsibility for the alleged assault, UCPD specifically investigated this question, and concluded at that time Harrington had done nothing wrong.”

There are two edgy elements here. The first, as we’ve noted previously, is the construction “had done nothing wrong.” The office of Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County district attorney, made no such finding. Rather, the D.A. determined that whatever happened with respect to Harrington’s role in Hinnant’s assault on Hale did not rise to the level of criminal charges.

The question is how the prosecutors came to such a determination. Did they talk to other witnesses in the room — other than whistleblower Joey Mahalic? Did those witnesses refute Mahalic’s account of a “code red”? Did they say Mahalic was lying in his March 2014 police statement? Did the police or the D.A.’s people interview Harrington directly, and did the coach perhaps say he was joking or Mahalic misinterpreted him?

I wish I could give you the answer. Unfortunately, the district attorney and her media spokesperson yesterday did not respond to Concussion Inc.’s query. Today, we’ll try them again.

The second sleazy element of Chancellor Dirks’ statement — marking him more as a jailhouse lawyer than a world-class historian and anthropologist — pertains to what actually are, or should be, two investigations of Harrington’s role in the Hinnant-Hale incident.

The first investigation, to which Dirks referred, was concluded prior to Ted Agu’s death on February 7, 2014. I was the only reporter to write in any depth about the work on it by Paul Hora, the assistant district attorney. In the takeout story, Hora was the one who raised the analogy of the movie A Few Good Men. “I have no evidence of a ‘code red’ here,” he told me in a telephone interview. “That would be a very difficult thing to prove.” See “Our (Probably) Final Take on the J.D. Hinnant Altercation With Fabiano Hale in the Cal Football Locker Room,” April 5, 2014,

But Hora came to that conclusion before Ted Agu died and before Joey Mahalic went to the cops, a month after Agu’s fatal collapse during Harrington’s rope-pulling and hill-climbing drill in darkness — which may or may not have been the one called the “grave digger” in the coach’s “winter workout contract” codifying the “voluntary” participation of players.

In the Agu investigation, conducted by the sheriff in support of the coroner, deposition testimony in the family’s wrongful death lawsuit confirms that the university withheld from the county information about Agu’s sickle cell trait, as well as at least 112 pages of police reports.

And whether or not Mahalic’s statement was among those 112 covered-up pages, we know that the district attorney never acquired and reviewed the statement until very recently, upon being pressured by Concussion Inc. (Obviously, you can throw the more influential San Francisco Chronicle in there, too — so long as you also note that the Chronicle still hasn’t published the full text of the Mahalic statement it says it has, and for two and a half years has comforted the powerful by cherry-picking from the documents in its possession and low-balling both the Hinnant-Hale and Agu scandals.)

Did the D.A. ever conduct a fresh, post-Agu investigation of Hinnant-Hale? Or did the authorities just skim the original suppressed police reports last week and say, “No worries. We’re good”?

No one is saying. Count this critic among those unwilling to let District Attorney O’Malley so easily blow off the public interest in a clear record of why Berkeley’s maniac football strength and conditioning guru is still on the job, while the university’s strained cashflow is a civil, though not a criminal, $4.75 million lighter.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick