Family of former Cal football player Ted Agu to file wrongful-death lawsuit

Katherine Chen/File
Student-athletes and members of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, led an evening candlelight service Feb. 12 outside Memorial Stadium.

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Update 8/5/2014: Read about the lawsuit here.

The family of former Cal football player Ted Agu, who died after a supervised teamwide workout Feb. 7, will file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents.

The lawsuit will allege that coaches and trainers failed to immediately come to Agu’s assistance after he exhibited symptoms of fatigue during the conditioning drill. Those symptoms, according to a press release from the law firm filing the suit, included dizziness, shortness of breath and loss of balance.

A copy of the coroner’s report obtained by The Daily Californian on Monday showed that Agu had a history of sickle cell anemia, but his family was not aware of his trait at the time of death. Authorities ultimately determined, however, that his death was caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which involves excessive heart muscle thickening and resulted in his enlarged heart.

Although the forensic pathologist in charge of the case found red blood cells that were consistent with sickle cell anemia, their morphology could have been caused by low oxygen tension, according to findings from the autopsy. Sickle cell anemia was not listed as a cause of death.

The coroner found that there was no trauma, foul play, alcohol or drugs involved in Agu’s death. The report stated that it was unknown whether he used performance-enhancing drugs, although his family and teammates were not aware of any such use.

Agu’s roommate and Cal quarterback Austin Hinder told police that Agu appeared “extra tired” earlier in the week after completing practices and became winded when running. He also said Agu couldn’t stop sneezing three days prior to his death. The family told the coroner that Agu’s only known medical problems were allergies, but he was otherwise healthy.

The morning of his death, Agu was running with the team and leading the group until the final lap, when he became noticeably tired, according to a report from UCPD Officer Harry Bennigson, the detective assigned to the case.

Agu eventually stopped running and took a knee to catch his breath. After he lost consciousness, his teammates initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and Agu was transported by cart back to Memorial Stadium, where a medical facility is located. Before reaching the stadium, paramedics arrived and took him to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, according to the coroner’s report. At 7:52 a.m., the 21-year-old was pronounced dead.

Nicknamed “Pre-med Ted,” he majored in public health and planned to attend medical school after graduation. He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi.

Over three seasons, Agu played 12 games off the bench as a defensive lineman and linebacker, registering nine tackles. He originally joined the football team his freshman year as a walk-on but did not play until the following year, in 2011, as a redshirt freshman.

Cal Athletics could not comment on specifics of the pending legal action.

“The members of our football family and our entire campus community remain deeply saddened with the loss of Ted Agu,” a Cal Athletics statement said. “We will continue to honor Ted in all we do. He will forever be a beloved member of our Golden Bear family.”

Agu is survived by his parents, Ambrose and Emilia Agu, and his siblings. He would have been a fifth-year senior this fall.

On Monday, the UC Board of Regents was served with an unrelated wrongful-death lawsuit from the surviving spouse of John Morris, who died after treatment at a UC Davis medical center on Sept. 3. The lawsuit alleges that medical personnel acted “negligently, carelessly, recklessly,” according to court documents. Before he died, Morris owned a mortuary transportation service for funeral directors.

According to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, wrongful-death lawsuits against the regents are not unusual given the size of the UC system.

Kimberly Veklerov is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.