by Irvin Muchnick
Three weeks before a California court hearing on Concussion Inc.’s motion for release of 141 pages of Berkeley campus police records in the 2014 conditioning death of University of California football player Ted Agu, the similar death earlier this year of Jordan McNair at the University of Maryland is back in the headlines.
An investigation commissioned by the Maryland board of regents cited “dysfunction” in the athletic department, yet failed to hold head football coach DJ Durkin or athletic director Damon Evans accountable in McNair’s death. The university is standing pat with the earlier forced resignation — including a generous severance package — of Durkin’s hand-picked strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court. The school’s president, Wallace Loh, who had spoken publicly of “legal and moral responsibility” in the wake of McNair’s death, announced his retirement, clearly in protest against the regents’ inaction.
See “Maryland’s decision to retain DJ Durkin makes no sense” by Andrea Adelson of ESPN, http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/25130311/maryland-terrapins-dj-durkin-returning-football-coach.
McNair’s death by heat stroke was the second of three college football conditioning fatalities this year, and one of nearly three dozen documented since 2000. The most recent, Braeden Bradforth at Garden City Community College in Kansas, is approaching the 90-day mark without release of the coroner’s autopsy.
The Bradforth case merits more attention than it is getting. There has been a shakeup in the Garden City athletic department, as a result of scandals unrelated to the death, but the head football coach, Jeff Sims, unlike Durkin at Maryland, didn’t even have to navigate calls for his head and, indeed, appears only to have strengthened his position. Off the cuff, Sims immediately asserted that the Bradforth tragedy was not football-related, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=13109; https://concussioninc.net/?p=13142.
We’re keeping an eye on Garden City, where the college, its football program, and a protective local news media are circling the wagons.
We also hope that as Judge Jeffrey Brand weighs our motion in Alameda County Superior Court for release of the Agu police files, he appreciates that Cal football’s experience with an avoidable conditioning death is but one instructive local flare-up of a growing and global public health issue.