Concussion Inc.’s ebook THE TED AGU PAPERS: A Black Life That Mattered — And the Secret History of a Covered-Up Death in University of California Football is available on Kindle-compatible devices at http://amzn.to/2aA2LDl. All royalties are being donated to sickle cell trait research and education.
Op-ed article for the Daily Californian on my Public Records Act lawsuit: http://www.dailycal.org/2017/04/19/journalist-files-lawsuit-uc-regents-alleging-breach-california-public-records-act/
Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series: https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877
by Irvin Muchnick
Where does a football strength and conditioning coach go after he gets dumped by the University of California-Berkeley three years after he killed a kid with sickle cell trait in a punishment drill that led to a $4.75 million civil lawsuit settlement?
Have no fear: Damon Harrington has landed on his feet after losing his $150,000-a-year job under equally disgraced former Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. Harrington is now the strength and conditioning coach at Grambling State University in Louisiana.
Grambling, of course, is the historical football powerhouse among black colleges under the legendary Eddie Robinson. Broderick Fobbs is in his fourth year as head coach there.
Fobbs told the News Star of Monroe, Louisiana: “A second chance is for someone who has done something wrong. I saw a strength coach that was a quality talent, but not only a quality talent but also a quality person. That’s what it’s about when it comes to our program. We want to have quality people within our program.” See http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/sports/college/gsu/2017/05/09/former-cal-tech-strength-coach-finds-new-home-grambling/101466434/.
The story diligently reviews the circumstances of Harrington’s Cal tenure, which included, three months prior to the Agu death, a player-on-player beatdown that could be attributed to a “Code Red” speech the coach gave to the non-traveling members of the squad after one of them — ultimately the victim of the teammate assault — missed a brutal conditioning session.
Evidently, it takes at least two strikes, in the form of drop-dead incidents on your watch, before someone’s resume becomes blemished in the world of training and conditioning in college football. A member of the training staff at Cal, Robbie Jackson, is no longer in the industry; Jackson also had been the only athletic trainer on the practice field when University of Central Florida head coach George O’Leary drove Ereck Plancher to his death in 2008.
Plancher, like Ted Agu, was a carrier of sickle cell trait, and died in a sickling attack that was originally misrepresented as a generic coronary. Jackson told a jury in the Plancher family’s lawsuit against UCF that he learned of the player’s SCT condition later, through the media. Agu’s SCT was known to the Cal medical and coaching staff.
Does Harrington’s presence spell danger at Grambling? Well, let’s put it this way: SCT, the cause of more football practice deaths than we previously realized, afflicts African-Americans. Installing a supervising coach with a caveman mentality toward “toughness” is a recipe for disaster.
On the bright side, these incidents often crop up under new regimes with assumed mandates to “change the culture” — like Agu under Dykes-Harrington, like the three Oregon players who were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis (a syndrome in which soft muscle tissue breaks down and leaks into the bloodstream during excessive exertion) in the recent “voluntary” offseason workout program of new head coach Willie Taggart and his strength and conditioning assistant Irele Oderinde.
The risks of sickling and rhabdo attacks are universal, though. Don’t bet your school’s bowl game revenue opportunity cost that college football safety standards will seriously address the problem.