With Clearer Evidence of Damon Harrington Cover-Up, Scandal of Ted Agu Death in Cal Football Takes a Dark Turn

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July 23, 2016
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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:



Installments to date in THE TED AGU PAPERS:











by Irvin Muchnick


Let’s begin this follow-up on the leak of names of football players who were invited to be interviewed for the 2014 review of Cal football coach Sonny Dykes’ strength and conditioning assistant, Damon Harrington, with further and clarifying information from one of our inside sources.

According to those who have seen both the attachment to the review report by Dr. Jeffrey Tanji, and this new unofficial list of student-athletes invited to participate in the review, J.D. Hinnant was not ultimately interviewed. Hinnant, one of the nine players “asked to join,” was in fact one of the two out of these nine who declined to be interviewed.

This doesn’t change the fatal shortcoming in the report’s failure to include Fabiano Hale , either on the “asked to join” list or on the random, purportedly computer-generated list of 20 other players. The bottom line here is that “independent” reviewer Tanji was instructed to report on Harrington’s program as a result of complaints about its extreme “toughness” and “punishment” methods, and about how these methods — along with the coach’s specific words and gestures — were alleged to be behind the criminal assault of one player by another.

This incident, the Harrington-inspired mugging of Hale by Hinnant, preceded by three months the death of Ted Agu in a crazy “voluntary” offseason conditioning drill that another player, in a deposition from the Agu family’s later $4.75 million-settled civil lawsuit against the University of California, would call a scene “like an Army movie.”

For months, and singularly, Concussion Inc. has been raising questions most people don’t want to hear about Cal’s cover-up of the circumstances surrounding Agu’s death. These include the highly irregular and badly judged lobbying by football team physician Dr. Casey Batten of the Alameda County medical examiner’s investigation of the cause of death. Testimony from the civil lawsuit makes it very clear that Batten and other university officials withheld knowledge of Agu’s sickle cell trait condition, gave perjurious testimony about the death scene that was contradicted by other players who were right there, and failed to forward to county authorities more than 100 pages of investigative materials.

Over the last week, we’ve witnessed the bureaucratic fandango — to give it the minimum skeptical description — over the previously undisclosed attachment to Tanji’s controversial June 2014 report. In processing this belatedly public information, our sources are confirming that the harshest criticism of the Tanji review’s methodology is, objectively, right on the mark.

How on God’s green earth could Fabiano Hale not have been asked to be interviewed? Here’s the way Tanji and co-author John Murray brushed off the Hinnant-Hale incident in their report:


“During the interview process an incident came to light raised by one of the members of the athletic training staff. During the season one member of the football team punched another member of the team in the locker room for not participating in a workout which resulted in the team having to do additional training. While the athlete who punched was suspended—the sentiment was that this athlete ‘sent a message from the rest of the team’ to the athlete who missed the workout. The other athletes not directly involved in the incident felt that this was not encouraged or sanctioned by the strength and conditioning staff, but the action of one athlete to another.”


You’ve got to love the raising of the Hinnant-Hale incident by “one of the members of the athletic training staff.” Not, heaven forbid, by a campus police report of player Joey Mahalic’s testimony, which was promptly stuffed in a drawer, and which wouldn’t even be read by the Alameda County district attorney for two years, and then only under pressure from Concussion Inc.

You’ve also got to love the sourcing construction of “The other athletes not directly involved in the incident.” Folks, this was precisely the kind of investigative detail that required the input … the testimony … of the athletes “directly involved in the incident.” Yet Hale, who had been sidelined with a concussion at Hinnant’s hands (while Hinnant blithely proceeded to suit up for the game that day), was sidelined again, this time by administrative manipulation, from the examination of how it all happened and of whether Damon Harrington bore primary or contributory responsibility in an episode of certified violent criminality.

If there was any doubt before that the Hinnant-Harrington cover-up is joined to the Agu death cover-up, there is none now.


I want to comment on a well-articulated defense of Harrington by a former Cal player, Donovan Frazer. A lengthy account of Frazer’s views was recently published at a fanboy site. See http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1686172-former-walk-on-details-harrington-s-methods.

First, here’s what’s good about Frazer: He doesn’t just take up arms in the culture war over big-time football between jockocrats and pointy-headed professors. Rather, he puts the Hinnant-Hale incident in the full context of new assistant coach Harrington’s mission to instill internal athlete “accountability” into the football program.

Frazer also pecks away at technical errors in some of the coverage of the Cal death scandal, including implied outrage over the term “noose drill,” which is a standard (if revealingly ugly) football practice term. And he speaks of the extreme ways of Berkeley football as no worse than is seen elsewhere in this industry — which, I have said repeatedly, is true. Football America is crawling with these Damon Harrington creeps, and their aggressive forays into “culture change” only intermittently culminate in actual, actionable negligent homicide.

So, am I persuaded by Frazer? Obviously, not at all, and I’ve already leaked some of the reasons in the previous paragraph. But I haven’t elucidated the fundamental reason, which is that what Frazer categorically does not do is engage fully the facts of either the Hinnant-Hale incident or the Agu death. Instead, he offers this self-conclusory musing:


“As angry as I was at Hale for missing that workout, what happened to him was wrong. But in no way should Damon be faulted for the action of another.  He did not ‘order the code red’ and he did not encourage any of us to assault Hale or any of the other players who had shown up late.  Someone acted out of frustration towards the situation and made a poor choice.”


Along the way, Frazer talks about Harrington’s “Crusade” and that all team members (some, like Hinnant and Hale, as young as 18 or 19) were “adult men” exercising free will “at a prestigious academic institution.” Frazer doesn’t add that it’s also one where Harrington and his boss, head coach Dykes, could cut off their year-to-year scholarships as casually as they duck responsibility for a “poor choice” by one of the “student-athletes” under their thumb.

Those calling for accountability for Harrington — and more importantly for his bosses, all the way up to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks (who generally, in this scenario and in other controversies plaguing his campus in crisis, seems way in over his head) — get it that people who want to see the Berkeley Golden Bears in the Bowl Championship Series admire Harrington; are even willing to give this goof glowing character references. But that is not what the Hinnant beating of Hale and the bizarre Harrington drill that killed Ted Agu are about. They are about crimes, and even more, about a pattern of out-of-control institutional behavior.

What makes Hinnant-Hale outrageous is Agu.

What makes Agu outrageous is Hinnant-Hale.

Those things, in isolation and in synergy — along with their ongoing, conjoined cover-up.


Concussion Inc.’s ebook THE TED AGU PAPERS, with all sales proceeds benefiting sickle cell trait research and education, will be published shortly.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick