by Irvin Muchnick
Fabiano Hale, an 18-year-old University of California freshman running back from Santa Cruz, was savagely beaten by a teammate on November 1, and wound up in the hospital with a concussion — that much is clear. But based on new information I received yesterday from sources close to the Hale family, subsequent to the publication of our article on Monday, the book on this matter is nowhere close to being closed by the embarrassingly thin account proffered by the beleaguered Cal athletic department, via two canned statements.
Further and more definitive reporting won’t be completed until I make follow-up attempts to talk to principals after the holiday weekend. But here’s the gist.
The Hale camp says the proximate cause of the incident was Fabiano’s absence from weight training that morning. I believe this, in part and as we will see, because it helps explain the university’s later failure to name the assailant (as well as the local media’s incurious acquiescence).
The teammate who fought Hale in what sounds like a one-sided exchange — Fabiano might have been knocked down by a single sucker punch to the jaw, then pummeled additionally on the ground — was said to have been incited by the collective punishment meted out for Hale’s no-show at weightlifting. (The family friends say he had decided to ditch the session so he could study for a big exam.)
In this account, a member of head coach Sonny Dykes’ staff, whom I will name after he has had a fair chance to respond to my emails, ordered double sets for the players who were present, and suggested that those who were unhappy about that deal with Hale themselves.
That’s part one of the holes in the Bears’ Hale story. Part two is the diligence of Cal officials in communicating with and supporting the Hale family.
The Santa Cruz precinct is furious about having learned what happened to Fabiano in a call from another teammate before a university representative called. A family friend also said that when the stepfather arrived at Alta Bates Medical Center, Fabiano was alone and in obvious distress from the concussion.
Yesterday, Cal athletics spokesman Herb Benenson declined to elaborate on two statements the university issued about the incident, on November 5 and November 15. The full texts are reproduced at the bottom of this post. They do not address any of our questions, which Benenson dismissed as “unsubstantiated speculation.”
In addition to withholding the name of the assailant, the statements simply ignore the Hale camp’s demand for an accounting of the proximate cause. As for the timing of the university’s involvement in Fabiano’s care and family contacts, the statements parse words to appear to be contradicting what I am reporting without actually doing so. No one disputes that a Cal rep informed the Hales — after they already knew; or that a coach showed up at the hospital to support Fabiano — after his stepfather was already there.
Bear in mind that if the stepfather traveled to Alta Bates all the way from Santa Cruz, he covered 75 miles. Memorial Stadium on the Cal campus is about a mile and a half from Alta Bates.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA STATEMENTS
Statement issued Nov. 5
We are fully cooperating with an investigation into an incident involving members of our football team. Our team culture is built on mutual respect for and accountability to each other.
There has been a lot of misinformation reported today that does need to be addressed:
A player was checked into the urgent care facility at the Tang Center on campus as soon as possible after an incident occurred by a member of our sports medicine staff.
Once fully advised of the situation, a Cal physician, coach and administrator each contacted the player’s family prior to the family’s arrival at the hospital. In addition, the coach personally visited the player and his family at the hospital.
We are still in the process of gathering information, but will not rush to judgment. We will have no further comment until the investigation is complete.
Statement issued Nov. 15
Based on an internal examination of a recent altercation among members of the Golden Bear football team, head coach Sonny Dykes has taken disciplinary action against one of the players involved. The decision is independent of an ongoing UC Police Department investigation and any campus student conduct measures that may be enacted.
The player who instigated the incident has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities, will attend counseling and must perform 25 hours of community service to be considered for reinstatement.
“There is no excuse for what occurred,” Dykes said. “We are building a culture of accountability and trust within our football program. Our players understand those expectations and know that they should hold themselves to high standards at all times, whether that’s on or off the field or in the classroom. Any violation of that code of conduct will always be taken very seriously.”
“I am confident in the program that Coach Dykes is building and the values he is instilling among the young men on our football team,” Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. “All of our student-athletes are expected to maintain themselves in a professional and respectful manner and take responsibility for their actions. After gathering the facts in this particular situation, it was clear that did not occur, and we feel we have taken appropriate disciplinary steps.”