by Irvin Muchnick
Thank you to Daniel Libit’s interesting Newsletter of Intent, which is devoted to college sports scandals and reform efforts, for new coverage of Concussion Inc.’s three-year-old state Public Records Act case against the University of California, and more generally of our six years of work on the cover-up of the sickle cell trait-driven 2014 offseason conditioning drill death of Cal Bears football player Ted Agu.
The full text of the 1,500-word piece, “Ted Agu’s Accountability Guardian,” is behind the subscribers-only wall. You can sign up for subscriptions at https://theintercollegiate.substack.com/.
Libit and co-newsletter producer Luke Cyphers (with whom I had a brush years ago when he was an investigative writer for ESPN The Magazine) conclude by calling me “the only person still staring” years later, after “the protected interests of college sports keep the threat of real reform at bay … by slow-walking the full story.” In this instance, it is the full story of how Agu died and how UC Berkeley’s athletic department, top administrators, and campus cops hid the cause of death until the public, led through the nose by the local media, was no longer paying attention.
Newsletter of Intent notes, correctly, that our present pass in Alameda County Superior Court — seeking to get an unredacted version of PR spin-doctoring of the Agu death by then UC Berkeley deputy athletics director Solly Fulp, who today is an equally overpaid national college sports private marketing pooh-bah — culminates “perhaps one last chance for public accountability to log a definitive victory in a tragic story succeeded by years of deception and stonewalling.”
“Thank goodness,” writes Libit, a kindred spirit muckraker, for “a lone, persistent freelance writer with a bug up his ass.” Remind me to poll insect rights activists and family members to see if they dissent.
In what I find an unfortunate tangent, lawyer Steve Yerrid, who represented Agu’s parents in a wrongful death lawsuit against the UC Regents, praises the defendant for “truly [doing] the right thing.” What Yerrid means, I gather, is that at least the university eschewed the kind of scorched-earth defense seen in some other college football conditioning death scenarios, and fairly efficiently moved toward a $4.75 million settlement. Fairly efficiently, as in after two-plus years of billables accrued by outside counsel and also ultimately paid for by California taxpayers.
Such statements serve to keep Yerrid in the game as a member of the club that specializes, postmortem, in redirecting arbitrary sums of money to families who have experienced the worst of the sports system’s excesses and abuses, while, with equal unelected confidence, turning the page. It is a recipe for commingling the need for change with the mundanities of the cost of doing business.
I make this point in rebuttal to Libit, and the point applies both to death in football and to coach sexual abuse in swimming and other youth sports. It is the reason I am careful not to position myself as an advocate of particular “reforms,” which invariably are tepid. Rather, I seek to illuminate the pathologies of sports culture, up and down the line, as they visit harm upon participants — who often, in addition to being unpaid and disenfranchised, are non-consenting non-adults as well.
The goalposts of the hook of the Libit article, a court hearing scheduled for this Thursday, have been moved again: Yesterday we learned that Judge Jefftey Brand is delaying a promised ruling on our motion to daylight the Solly Fulp email until a hearing now set for December 20.
Jumping off from the Newsletter of Intent — the first decent third-party attention given to our case — I’ll be using this latest two-week court delay to continue reviewing for our own readers all the inside and outside elements of the Agu cover-up.
Comprehensive headline links to our six years of Ted Agu death coverage: https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877