Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

Cal athletic director Mike Williams tells Cal football in a meeting that Cal Athletics stands behind Damon Harrington

Cal athletic director Mike Williams tells Cal players that the athletic department stands behind strength coach Damon Harrington.

After a June 29 report by the San Francisco Chronicle raised questions about California's handling of two incidents that critics of the program linked to strength coach Damon Harrington, members of Cal's senior athletic administration -- including athletic director Mike Williams -- and football staff met with the full football team on Wednesday.

"We felt it was important to sit down and talk with our student-athletes about where we are, in real time, with this," said Cal spokesman Wes Mallette, who attended the meeting. "we have repeatedly stated that the wellbeing and best interests of our student-athletes -- all of our student-athletes -- is of paramount importance to us. Making sure that our student-athletes know that they are supported by our athletics department is what our department is based on. We stand together. We are one athletics department. We stand united, with all of our coaches, our entire staff, and all of our student-athletes."

The meeting was said to be "very positive." The meeting took place In the main team meeting room at the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance on Wednesday evening, in the wake of the original article, two letters and a petition (signed by 98 of 1,522 faculty members) from the Berkeley Faculty Association to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who ordered a probe of the program.

"We are still waiting to hear what that is, and what that means, but Damon is our strength and conditioning coach," Mallette said, in regards to the probe. 

The collection of faculty who signed the petition -- led by longtime critics of the program, and intercollegiate athletics as a whole, professors Brian Barsky and Michael O'Hare -- took issue with a report filed on the program by UC Davis's Dr. Jeffrey Tanji, and demanded Harrington's suspension and further investigation, after both incidents -- a locker room punch by an offensive lineman that knocked out then-running back Fabiano Hale in November of 2013, and the death of defensive lineman Ted Agu following a February, 2014 conditioning session -- had already been adjudicated, the latter ending in a $4.75 million settlement by the University with Agu's family, in which the University admitted negligence.

Harrington's contract was renewed before last Friday, when his previous contract would have expired. He is set to make $150,000 over the next year.

Since the original article was published, multiple players have come out in support of Harrington, including former linebacker Michael Barton, who is transferring to Arizona for his final year of eligibility, and former receiver Bryce Treggs, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers. Treggs went so far as to say that he would not say "California" during pre-game introductions for  featured games, and starting defensive tackle James Looney -- a presumptive early-round NFL Draft pick -- tweeted that he may not play if Harrington were dismissed.

"Damon is our head strength and conditioning coach," Mallette said. "It was important for our student-athletes to know that."

"Athletics is focused on building bridges between athletics and campus, and tearing down the old narrative of academics versus athletics," Mallette continued. "That's not where we are, and that's not where we want to be. 

"One of the tenets of the Chancellor's Task Force on Academics and Athletics was to create a better experience for our student-athletes at UC Berkeley. They are students, first, and athletes, second. We don't forget that. Our department has, and will continue to work in collaboration with our campus to actualize this and many of the 53 other goals that were part of the task force findings. As we move forward, we believe that from a professional standpoint, it is in everyone's best interests to come together, as professionals, and sit down and discuss any specific issue, interest or concern that a particular subset of faculty may have with athletics, rather than that subset's continued proclivity to push their agenda in the media." Top Stories