Cal Finally Readies Release of ‘Do-Over’ Report on Football Strength and Conditioning Program That Killed Ted Agu in 2014

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by Irvin Muchnick


One of the key public refrains of any story of institutional cover-up is, “Remember x?”

In this case, x is the University of California-Berkeley’s new-and-improved review of the football team’s strength and conditioning program following the 2014 death of player Ted Agu — which resulted in a $4.75 million settlement of a civil lawsuit by the Agu family.

Last year this reporter sued the UC Regents, under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), for internal documents relating to the handling by administrators of the Agu death and its precursor, a criminal assault by a Cal football player against a teammate. The latter is alleged to have been incited by the same strength and conditioning coach, Damon Harrington, whose bizarre punishment drill would kill Agu.

Judge Jeffrey S. Brand has set a hearing for May 17 in the next step to resolve differences between the CPRA litigation parties over whether the university can be compelled to file a listing of withheld documents and privacy exemption claims, which is known as a Vaughn Index.

Meanwhile, Dr. Elizabeth Joy, co-author of the football strength and conditioning program review 2.0, confirmed to this reporter that the document had been completed and is near being released. (A campus source had tipped me to this development.)

“The report is complete and will be released soon,” Joy emailed me on Sunday. (The other co-author, former Cal law professor Wayne Brazil, does not respond to our inquiries.)

Yesterday Cal spokesperson Dan Mogulof told us, “Release is anticipated before the end of May.”

I noted to Joy that ten months ago she had told me, “We are closing in on the end. We have interviews set up in mid July [2017], and hope to have the summary of our findings and recommendations completed by late summer early fall.” I asked what had taken so long. Joy did not reply.

This slow-walked second review is of a piece with Cal’s multifaceted efforts to help the public forget there ever was a football death scandal, with a multimillion-dollar payout subsidized by tax- and tuition-payers. And the cover-up of the full narrative continues to be enabled by timid local media.

In June 2016, under pressure from faculty members who were uncovering a range of corruptions that soon would force the end of his short chancellorship, Nicholas B. Dirks had announced the second review. The first one, by an athletic department crony doctor and athletic trainer, on which documents indicate they spent barely more than a day, had been a laughably slipshod whitewash of the regime of strength and conditioning coach Harrington, under head football coach Sonny Dykes. In a span of three months, one player wound up in the Alta Bates Hospital emergency room following a locker-room beating administered by his teammate, and another, Agu, wound up at the county morgue.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the commissioning of the second review but not, to my knowledge, a word about it since. Similarly, during the Agu family litigation, the Chronicle had published exactly one story from the leaked deposition transcripts it acquired. And that single story, while revealing that the university was acknowledging liability and moving toward a settlement, focused only on such aspects as the emergency response when Agu was stricken and the dissatisfaction of other athletes who were not given decent grief counseling.

Only Concussion Inc. has reported fully on the links between the player-vs.-player confrontation and the Agu death; on the lobbying by the football team doctor, Casey Batten (who then moved on to the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League) that initially led the medical examiner to mischaracterize Agu’s death as generic heart failure rather than a sickle cell trait exertional attack; and on the university’s concealment from the county sheriff, investigating on behalf of the coroner, of more than 100 pages of documents related to the Agu death incident.




Whitewash 2.0: Cal Rolls Out Fresh-Scrubbed ‘Independent Review’ of Football Conditioning Program Where Assault and Death Occurred

Published November 9th, 2016


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 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:

“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:

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick