by Irvin Muchnick
In direct contradiction of his own sworn deposition testimony in the Ted Agu family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the University of California-Berkeley, football strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington — assistant to head coach Sonny Dykes — regularly conducted what a secret internal document calls a “massive punishment session in front of the entire team” for the groups of players who finished last in a bizarre intrasquad competition that included what were termed “combative” drills. The last of the exercises in the combative drills had the title “Grave digger.”
Concussion Inc.’s latest exclusive from the still largely ignored story of abusive, arguably homicidal, practices at one of the world’s great public universities emerges from a primary-source document acquired from a source close to the case. This reporter has confirmed with multiple informed sources the authenticity of the document.
By agreement with our source, “CAL FOOTBALL WINTER WORKOUTS — PLAYER CONTRACT” is being reported at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time Sunday morning. At noon Pacific time, Concussion Inc. will publish the full text of the document.
The existence and content of Harrington’s player “contract” — not a legal agreement but, rather, a kind of in loco parentis promulgation of the rules of his strength and conditioning program — raise grave questions about Cal’s profound violations of purported National Collegiate Athletic Association limits on “voluntary” offseason workouts.
The winter workout contract also exposes perjury in Harrington’s November 7, 2014, deposition testimony in the Agu civil lawsuit, which Cal settled earlier this year for $4.75 million. Concussion Inc. reported on the deposition in an earlier installment of our “Agu Papers” series, at https://concussioninc.net/?p=11014.
The deposition reveals that prior to the Agu family attorneys’ questioning of Harrington, university counsel produced for them internal documents related to winter workouts. However, the document being published today by Concussion Inc. — Harrington’s “contract” with players — was not among those produced.
Asked at the deposition to review the documents provided, Harrington answered “yes” as to whether these were “all the documents that the strength-and-conditioning program has regarding the 2014 winter workout program.” (Agu died during an extreme training drill on February 7, 2014.)
Harrington acknowledged the use of “punishment drills” in a manner he described as “just like how I treat my kids.” He explained: “You know when, say, the athlete does not go to class, misses tutors, misses study hall hours …”
Harrington then was asked, “Are there punishment drills given here at Cal for teams involved in a conditioning — a competition, umm, who don’t finish first?”
“No,” Harrington lied.
He again answered in a one-word negative when the question was rephrased: “Punishment drills aren’t given for — depending on what place you come in, in a drill.”
The four-page “winter workout contract” we are publishing today proves the opposite. It concludes with this verbiage:
“- Points will be calculated throughout week
– At the end of every week, points will be posted
– A massive punishment session in front of the entire team featuring the previous weeks [sic] losing team as well as violators of self-discipline category. All players/coaches are required to attend.
– Winning team will be rewarded from previous week at punishment session.
– If a team is in last place 2 week [sic] in a row, they will be required to participate in massive punishment and in addition have a workout at 5 am.”
One of our earlier articles described how former Cal player Joey Mahalic testified in his deposition that Harrington’s extreme methods were so alarming that Mahalic volunteered a statement about them to Cal police following Agu’s death. Yet the Berkeley campus cops never forwarded the statement to the Alameda County district attorney. And in turn, that office evidently never has requested the statement in the months since its existence was reported here.
This is despite the fact that prosecutors claim the criminal investigation remains open in the November 2013 beating of player Fabiano Hale by teammate J.D. Hinnant — an incident that appears to have been instigated in general by Harrington’s “punishment” regime, and in specific by the coach’s statements and gestures to players after Hale missed a scheduled workout.
In another deposition by a player whose identity we have not yet revealed, the player — a close friend of Agu’s — described the death scene as being “like an Army movie.”
Concussion Inc. is awaiting responses from the office of Berkeley’s chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, to public records requests for Mahalic’s police statement; for internal university emails discussing Harrington and his program; and for a commissioned review of the program by Dr. Jeffrey Tanji, a sports medicine specialist at the University of California-Davis. (In his deposition, Harrington suggested that the review resulted in his suspension for one day.)
The complete “Ted Agu Papers” will be published as an ebook in the near future. All sales proceeds will be donated to sickle cell trait research and education. Due to concealment of information about Agu’s death, the Alameda County coroner originally reported the cause of death as random heart failure, but later amended the finding to include sickle cell trait.
Cal does not respond to our inquiries on the employment status of Harrington, whose latest one-year contract, at $150,000 a year plus bowl bonuses, expires at the end of June. And the county district attorney refuses to explain why the university’s admission of civil negligence in Agu’s case has not led to a criminal investigation driven by the discrepancies and lies exposed in these Agu Papers.