Cal walk-on lineman Ted Agu died after collapsing during a conditioning drill.
Agu had sickle-cell trait. Cal settled with Agu’s family for $4.5 million in a negligence case, and commissioned a review of the coaching staff, including strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington. And now, the results of the report are being brought into question, according to this report from Katy Murphy of The Mercury News.
Harrington kept his job, which would be a questionable decision even if the only incident was the tragedy involving Agu. But that’s not the case; according to the piece, Harrington also may have incited a locker room attack on another player:
Former quarterback Joey Mahalic reported the incidents and other concerns to campus officials and, later, to UC Berkeley police. He told detectives that Harrington made the team suffer in practice for Hale’s absence and then told the players that they should “fix this. By any means necessary,” and pounded his fist into his palm, according to a police interview transcript obtained by the Chronicle. The attack happened that evening.The newspaper reported that other players corroborated Mahalic’s account.
A campus spokeswoman said Thursday that Harrington denied encouraging the attack.
That’s a troubling account, to be sure. Even more troubling, the review of these practices was apparently conducted by two people with ties to the athletic department. As the piece notes:
Still, such relationships create the appearance of conflicts of interest, which is troubling, said John Cummins, a retired associate chancellor at Berkeley who has studied the management of Cal athletics.
The investigators’ report also reveals that they learned of the locker room attack only from interviews, he noted, which suggests it wasn’t part of their original investigatory charge.
“For matters that are that serious, you obviously want to have somebody that is independent and has total access to all documents and access to all players and any personnel that have anything to do with the program,” Cummins said. “You wouldn’t have an investigation that is coordinated by the athletic department if you’re investigating the athletic department.”
As noted by The Mercury News, Harrington’s contract has actually been renewed since the death of Agu, and is once again up for renewal Friday. It’ll be fascinating to see whether he once again keeps his job. And if he does, what in the world would it take for him to lose it?
The Chronicle has a more thorough summary current situation including these comments from CAL faculty:
“Why is he still here?” Professor Barsky asked on a faculty listserv in April after the settlement with the Agu family was announced. In an interview, he expressed frustration that Harrington’s contract has been renewed and could be extended again Friday.
“They did it with full knowledge that these incidents have occurred,” Barsky said. “It’s so immoral.” We’re talking about terrible, immoral things.”