Dangling Police Investigation of Cal Football Player-on-Player Attack Only Multiplies Questions of University Cover-Up

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by Irvin Muchnick


We have been following, with singular persistence, the aftermath of the humiliating punctuation mark on the University of California’s disastrous football season: allegations of the indirect role of a coach in a physical attack on a player by a teammate after the player missed a team weightlifting session. (At the bottom of this post, see chronological links to Concussion Inc.’s prior coverage.)

The latest non-update is that the campus police have submitted a report to the Alameda County district attorney. That report remains exempt from public disclosure pending a decision by the D.A. on whether to file charges against the player who beat up Fabiano Hale, a freshman running back, and sent him to the emergency room of Berkeley’s Alta Bates Medical Center with a concussion.

Though the university may feel that it is defusing this scandal with the passage of time, the opposite is the case. Neither Cal’s image nor the tattered values of its intercollegiate sports program are being served in an effort to bore the public into forgetfulness and indifference. Here’s why.

The relevant UC Police Department blotter item on November 1, entered by Officer Charissa Spears, shows that the altercation did not become a police matter until 8:09 p.m. — more than three and a half hours after the incident. Lieutenant Marc DeCoulode told me the police were alerted by Alta Bates while Hale was seeking treatment there.

Invited to elaborate for this article on its two public statements on the matter — one on November 5, the second on November 15 — Cal again declined. In the first statement, the athletic department had said, in part, “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.” Later in the statement, the university took credit for contact with the Hale family by a Cal physician, coach, and administrator prior to the family’s arrival at “the hospital,” and for a visit by the coach at “the hospital.”

It is painfully obvious that the statement, massaged by lawyers, was designed to entice casual readers into fusing the Tang Center with the unnamed Alta Bates, and thus glossing over the 210-plus-minute gap prior to police notification.

Specifically, athletic department spokesperson Herb Benenson would not comment on when a staff member first knew of an incident the police blotter would characterize as a “battery,” or who that staff member was.

To put it mildly, the university’s lack of transparency does not strengthen any possible rebuttal of the account that strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington ordered double sets for Fabiano’s teammates as punishment for his missing the training session, and told them they could settle the score with Fabiano in their own way.

At this stage of the snail-paced investigation, two more points need to be reemphasized. The first is that I have not spoken directly to Fabiano Hale or his family. Sometimes delays such as the one we’re now experiencing are caused by the reticence of the victim himself to press charges, for whatever reason. I am not asserting that that is what is happening here. But if it is, even a willingness by Hale and his family to turn the page on this incident would not dispose of the interests of millions of other stakeholders: the citizens and taxpayers of California. Our main interest is not whether criminal charges are preferred. It is calling to account the leaders of the out-of-control major college sports program with the country’s very worst record of graduating its athletes.

Which leads to point two: The Fabiano Hale assault is another illustration that athletic director Sandy Barbour has lasted well past her expiration date. She should find another line of work — preferably in the private sector.

The Most Telling Concussion in Cal Football Occurred Off the Field

Published November 25th, 2013

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick