UC Berkeley announced Friday that the elite university renewed the contract of controversial football coach Damon Harrington, who has been accused of over-aggressive coaching that lead to an injury and the death of two players.
Despite the controversy surrounding the embattled coach, Dan Mogulof, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Communications and Public Affairs, said that they “cannot endorse leaping to conclusions” without proper evidence.
Ted Agu, a former linebacker for the team, died in 2014 of extreme fatigue after Harrington supposedly subjected him to a strenuous workout. Agu had a sickle-cell trait that the coach had been aware of. During the lawsuit, it was revealed that Agu had not consulted a physician about that particular training plan.
Agu’s family eventually filed a lawsuit against the university, saying that Harrington and other coaches refused to respond to his obvious signs of illness, such as dizziness and loss of balance.That settlement granted the Agu family with $4.75 million for the student’s wrongful death.
The year before that, claims surfaced that Harrington had a role in a locker room brawl between former running back Fabiano Hale and another player, which put Hale in the hospital. Hale had missed practice, and players allege that Harrington incited the beat down as a lesson.
However, Mogulof confirmed that previous investigations and reviews examining Harrington’s conduct produced nothing that would merit termination with Cal Athletics.
“The coach also enjoys strong backing from the leadership of Cal Athletics, as well the unanimous support of current members of the team,” Mogulof said.
Harrington’s $150,000 contract comes at the same time as UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ investigation into the strength and conditioning practices of the team.
Mogulof said the investigation is necessary in order for the University to uphold their strong commitment to student athlete safety and well-being and not just meet the requirements, but exceed them.
“We need to be absolutely certain that we are going above and beyond what is required when it comes to the well-being of our student athletes,” Mogulof said in a statement. “The chancellor has promised that he will, depending on the outcome of this review, be ready to make any necessary changes to our policies, practices, or personnel.”