On the day after Arkansas coach Bret Bielema used the death of Cal football player Ted Agu as an argument for making a rule change to slow the college game, Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour angrily responded, calling his remarks “misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insensitive.”
Bielema told reporters in Arkansas on Thursday that Agu’s Feb. 7 death, following a routine team training run, was evidence that college football should adopt a controversial rule that would prevent teams from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had elapsed on the 40-second play clock.
He made reference to a CBSSports.com report that Agu carried the sickle cell trait, adding, “I have a half a dozen players on my team currently that have that trait.”
Asked for concrete data that supports the notion that no-huddle, up-tempo football is a threat to the health of players, Bielema said, “Death certificates. There’s no more anything I need than that.”
After Agu’s funeral service Friday in his hometown of Bakersfield, attended by Cal’s players and coaches, Barbour blasted Bielema for his remarks.
“Bret Bielema’s comments about our Ted Agu are misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insensitive,” she said via Twitter.
“Using the tragic loss of one of our student athletes as a platform to further a personal agenda in a public setting is beyond inappropriate.”
In a series of tweets, Bielema offered an explantion for his comments and condolences, but stopped short of an apology.
“In my press conference last night, I referenced information about the tragic loss of a life of a student-athlete,” Bielema said. “My comments were intended to bring awareness to player safety and instead they have caused unintended hurt.
“As a head coach who works with young individuals every day the passing of Ted Agu is a reminder to us all how short and precious life is. I would like to extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the Agu family, Coach Sonny Dykes and to the University of California family.”
Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban are among high-profile coaches who favor the change, which must be approved by a playing rules oversight panel on March 6.