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Ted Agu's family serves Cal with wrongful death lawsuit

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California backup linebacker Ted Agu passed away last February in a training run. His family plans to sue. (©GettyImages)
California backup linebacker Ted Agu passed away last February in a training run. His family plans to sue. (©GettyImages).

The family of a Cal player who died in February while participating in a team-sanctioned practice run will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California.

The news was announced through a press release from the family's legal counsel, Panish Shea & Boyle, which was sent out Monday. A press conference will be conducted Tuesday at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland to formally introduce the suit.

An avoidable tragedy?

Ted Agu played in 12 games during his four-year career, contributing nine tackles while mostly coming off the bench as a linebacker and defensive lineman.

He was a public health major who had earned second-team Pac-12 All-America honors as a junior in 2013.

The devastating day began when the team set out on a supervised training run at 6 a.m., school officials announced in February after the incident. Agu collapsed during the run and team medics noticed he was having difficulty keeping up.

The medics put him on a cart, where he was hydrated and alert, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But then Agu collapsed, which prompted emergency personnel to give CPR and use a defibrillator.

The junior passed away at Alta Bates hospital's emergency room later that day. 

"The members of our football family and our entire campus community remain deeply saddened with the loss of Ted Agu. We will continue to honor Ted in all we do," the Cal athletic department said in a recent statement. "Because we have not seen the lawsuit, we cannot speak to the specifics of this pending action and respectfully decline comment at this time."

The family's legal counsel contends that Agu's death was avoidable.

"Despite the symptoms which clearly could and should have been observed, UCB coaches and trainers failed to immediately come to Agu's assistance," the press release said. "It was only after Agu struggled and encountered obvious difficulties for a significant period of time that intervention occurred."

A prior condition

In April, the Chronicle reported that Agu's death was caused by a heart condition which has a history of causing sudden death among athletes.

The 21-year-old died of hypertrophic cadiomyopathy - an excessive thickening of the heart muscle - according to the Alameda County coroner's office. It is unclear whether Agu or his family knew of his prior condition.

A death in the family

For the most part, college football is a relatively safe sport. Yes, the long-term effects have been reportedly dangerous, and both college and pro athletes have won lawsuits regarding damages caused by concussions.

But there have been few fatalities related to on-field participation.

Vince Bernardo, a 17-year-old at the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, died in 2006 from breathing difficulties after a series of 110-yard sprints. A heat illness caused the death of Tennessee Tech defensive back Preston Birdson in 2000 and Devaughn Darling of Florida State also died from cardiac arrhythmia, with possible sickle cell complications, in 2001.

However, many more deaths have occurred from injuries which came off the field, whether they were in the form of murders, car accidents or cruel accidents.

Can Agu's family prove that negligence helped cause Agu's death? Perhaps.

But they will have to prove that Cal had reason to believe a 6-foot-1, 240-pound fourth-year player would drop dead after a pretty standard run. They will have to prove, through eyewitnesses or some other means, that Agu was not properly administered to, as Cal officials have said numerous times.

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