Cal head coach Sonny Dykes responds to criticism of strength coach Damon Harrington, academic and athletic schism at Pac-12 Media Day

In the wake of a faculty petition to suspend strength coach Damon Harrington, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes invites critics to come to Memorial Stadium.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- California head coach Sonny Dykes has seen his strength coach Damon Harrington's methods called to question for his handling of a workout that led to the death of defensive lineman Ted Agu, and an incident involving an offensive lineman knocking out running back Fabiano Hale after Hale's absence at a workout led to an intense conditioning session. That critique, spearheaded by noted critics of college athletics Brian Barsky and Michael O'Hare, prompted a petition signed by 98 of 1,522 faculty members to suspend Harrington's contract, which was renewed on June 28, 2016. That petition led to a response by UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks, saying that a renewed inquiry -- following a civil case which won $4.75 million and an admittance of negligence on the part of Cal for Agu's family, as well as a previous review of the strength and conditioning program -- would be undertaken.

That renewed inquiry elicited a statement of support for Harrington from the Cal Athletic Department, and then a meeting with the football team, in which team and athletic department officials -- including athletic director Mike Williams --  vocalized their support for Harrington. Former lineman Donovan Frazer -- who was present for both incidents in question -- then came to BearTerritory to profess the normalcy of Harrington's methods, in a collegiate athletic context.

At Thursday's Pac-12 Media Day, Dykes addressed the issues at hand. On the subject of Harrington, Dykes unequivocally supported his strength and conditioning coach, who's been with him since his time at Louisiana Tech.

"I think anybody that knows anything about our program sees the positive impact he's had in our program," said Dykes, who trumpeted the evolution of the culture in the locker room, which has moved Cal from last in the conference in academic progress rate (923) before he was hired, to the last reported score -- a 997, out of 1,000 00. "The people that are around our program understand how important he is and the contributions he's made to getting us where we want to go.

"We have a great culture in our program. That's the thing I'm most proud of is just the culture that we have. The work ethic, the unselfishness, the dedication that our guys have to each other is I think what makes this team special."

In terms of the perceived hostility between some on the academic side of the University, and the Athletic Department, Dykes invited the critics on campus to see the program -- and all of its inner workings -- for themselves.

"I mean, look, I think we're just trying to figure out ways to do well academically and to do well on the football field, and that's what we're all about," Dykes said. "As I said earlier, I think the more that people get to know our program and our players within our program, I think the more they're going to be proud of what we're doing and how we're doing it. I think the important thing is people to understand. Come get around our program. That's why we have been really transparent is so that we can answer a lot of these questions, and the problem sometimes occurs that people just don't know. I think the more that people know about us as coaches, about more importantly our players, then the more they're going to be receptive to working with them."

Dykes, however, did not say that there is a divide between the academic and athletic sides of the equations.

"I don't think so. I think it's like anything else. I think sometimes things get blown out of proportion," Dykes said. "But we're certainly not unique to that. I mean, I think that's a situation that occurs on many college campuses across the country. It's just something that is -- again, the thing I'm proud of is that we have a track record of keeping our players eligible and graduating. You know what I mean?

"You look at what we've been able to do since I've been there in terms of recruiting junior college players, every one of our junior college players that we've seen except for one is graduated, and the one that hasn't graduated is in an NFL camp (Darius White). So all those kids that we brought in, all of them have graduated. So we're doing things the right way, and we've got to do a better job of getting that message out to the people that need to understand that message, and so a lot of that is on us." Top Stories