by Irvin Muchnick
This reporter has had Solly Fulp, the former deputy director and chief operating officer of Cal Athletics, subpoenaed in my California Public Records Act case against the University of California Regents. Fulp will be deposed by Concussion Inc.’s attorney, Roy S. Gordet, at a date to be determined.
The Fulp deposition will precede briefing over the issue of whether the university is asserting an overly broad claim of attorney-client privilege in withholding emails among a circle of administrators discussing the April 2014 autopsy report by the Alameda County medical examiner in the football conditioning death of Ted Agu two months earlier. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Brand set November 7 for a hearing on this dispute at the Hayward Hall of Justice.
Who Is Solly Fulp?
At the time of the Agu death — which the coroner at first ruled was from heart failure and later revised to reflect that it was an episode of ECAST (Exertional Collapse Associated With Sickle Cell Trait) — Fulp was the deputy director and chief operating officer of the UC Berkeley athletic department.
In 2014, Fulp was paid a total of $345,178 in salary, “other pay,” and “other benefits,” according to Transparent California, a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. See Concussion Inc.’s September 19, 2016, report at https://concussioninc.net/?p=11420.
After passing over Fulp to succeed then athletic director Sandy Barbour (who now holds the same position at Penn State), UC Berkeley in June 2015 hired Fulp for the newly created general campus administration position of “Executive Director – University Business Partnerships & Services.”
Fulp held that job until late 2017, when he became senior vice president at the Learfield company, which coordinates marketing for college sports programs across the country. Previously in his career, Fulp had gone back and forth from roles at IMG College, another college sports marketing firm, and the Cal athletic department. Late last year IMG College (owned by William Morris Endeavor) merged with Learfield; the combined company is now called Learfield IMG College.
Why Was Solly Fulp Subpoenaed?
Last year’s production by UC of hundreds of pages of internal emails related to the Agu death, for which the university asserted attorney-client privilege, includes an April 23, 2014, email from Fulp to “Dad.” The email is a forward of a thread of more than a dozen emails involving not just the now-deceased chief campus counsel of the time, Christopher Patti, but also ten other general campus administrators, public relations employees, athletic department officials, and campus police officers. The subject line of the thread is “Ted Agu – Cause of Death (Statement, Talking Points and Q&A.”
In upcoming arguments to the court, attorney Gordet will be contending that the sharing of the emails with a third party by a high university official constituted waiver of attorney-client privilege. Respondent UC is expected to argue that Fulp did not have the authority to waive attorney-client privilege and thus the privilege still holds.
What Is the Significance of Solly Fulp’s Testimony?
Concussion Inc. believes the University of California has engaged in multiple levels of cover-ups in the Ted Agu death. We have been reporting various aspects of this story since several months prior to the death incident itself. See collected headline links to our real-time coverage, starting on November 27, 2013, at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877.
Internal university documents already produced in the Public Records Act case establish that Dr. Casey Batten, the Cal football team physician (now on the medical staff of the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams), had an irregular contact with Dr. Thomas Beaver, then the county medical examiner. In what seemed to be a lobbying call shortly after Agu died and before Beaver performed the autopsy, Batten pushed the theory that the death was simple “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” (a coronary episode). Batten withheld the information that the university knew Agu was a carrier of the sickle cell trait, which exposes certain African-Americans to sudden death during extreme exertion.
At the same time that Batten was calling Beaver, other internal university documents show Cal public relations employees and other officials reviewing public talking points designed to deflect questions about Agu’s medical condition. Batten himself delivered these talking points almost verbatim at a press conference hours after Agu died.
Among other cover-up narratives revealed by documents independently obtained by Concussion Inc. are campus police records in which a police lieutenant directed a “do-over” second interview of Damon Harrington, then the conditioning coach under then head football coach Sonny Dykes, in which Harrington seemed to be coached into somewhat more forthright, but still guarded, questions concerning Agu’s known sickle cell trait condition.
In his deposition in the Agu family’s wrongful death lawsuit against UC, coroner Beaver acknowledged that the 21-year-old pre-med student’s sickle cell trait status was not disclosed to his office, and discussed details of his pre-autopsy phone conversation with Batten. (In his own deposition, Batten responded incoherently to these questions.) In a highly unusual step, Beaver then agreed to have the official autopsy findings revised by the medical examiner’s office, to reflect that it was an exertional collapse associated with sickle cell trait.
In 2016 the UC Regents came to a $4.75 million settlement with Agu’s parents.
Since April 2017, I have been litigating the California public’s right for further information on this scenario under the California Public Records Act.
More than a player a year dies in non-contact offseason college football conditioning drills alone.