Damon Harrington, Cal football’s strength and conditioning coach, had his contract renewed by Cal Athletics on June 28, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. News of the contract renewal comes amid chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ call for a new investigation into Cal football’s strength and conditioning program, as well as a San Francisco Chronicle report on the program’s previous investigation.
Harrington and Cal football came under scrutiny in 2013 after then-freshman Cal running back Fabiano Hale was injured in an altercation with one of his teammates, which left him unconscious. The spotlight turned back to the program once again in 2014, when junior Cal defensive lineman Ted Agu died after a team wide training session. The university later admitted negligence for Agu’s death, which led to a $4.75 million settlement to his family in April.
The 2014 “Tanji report” cleared Harrington and the rest of the Cal staff of any wrongdoing after the incident. But the Chronicle’s report June 29 revealed that the initial report did not adequately address concerns about the program, as it failed to acknowledge Harrington’s role in the two incidents and did not contain any factual analysis of the events.
The integrity of the report was also questioned, as the two main investigators — private strength and conditioning coach John Murray and Jeffrey Tanji, medical director for sports at UC Davis — had personal ties with Cal staff. The Chronicle also reported that players that were interviewed were in fact hand-picked by the athletic administration, creating conflict of interests.
Dirks called for a new investigation of the program July 1 amid the recent criticism. The investigation was set to begin soon after the announcement was made once the necessary steps were taken so it could be fully launched.
Harrington’s contract, however, was renewed prior to the recent reporting on Cal football’s strength and conditioning program. The renewal was based upon the lack of evidence from earlier reports that claimed that Harrington had anything to do with the aforementioned incidents.
“As noted by the chancellor in his message to faculty, previous investigations and reviews examined Harrington’s conduct and produced nothing that would preclude his continued employment with Cal Athletics,” Mogulof said in the statement.
In addition to the clearance of Harrington’s name on previous reviews, Mogulof also accredited the contract renewal to the “strong backing from the leadership of Cal Athletics, as well as the unanimous support of current members of the team.”
In a tweet sent July 5, junior Cal running back Tre Watson condemned the Chronicle’s report, claiming that “Damon is the heart of this team” and “has one of the biggest roles.” Several other current players also took to social media to voice support for their coach, including junior safety Luke Rubenzer and redshirt junior tight end Raymond Hudson.
While Harrington’s contract was renewed, Mogulof does not rule out changes to Cal Athletics’ policies, practices or personnel. He acknowledges that there will be another independent review of the strength and conditioning program by the University to ensure the safety and well-being of its student athletes.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and the Berkeley Faculty Association called for a new investigation of Cal’s strength and conditioning report. In fact, only Chancellor Dirks did.
Chris Tril covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].