Cal grieving over death of football player Ted Agu

A grim scene unfolded Friday at Haas Pavilion, in a building constructed to house athletic glory and pride. Not tragedy.

Less than a week after Cal football player Ted Agu rushed the Haas court to celebrate the basketball Bears' win over then-top-ranked Arizona - a happy college student embracing his college life - Cal officials gathered in an adjacent room and announced the worst news possible.

Agu, a 21-year-old walk-on defensive end from Bakersfield, collapsed and died early Friday morning after a supervised training run.

"There is no greater tragedy for us than to lose one of our incredibly bright and passionate young people, far too soon," said athletic director Sandy Barbour, fighting back tears.

Cal was prohibited by law from releasing detailed information about possible pre-existing medical conditions and will wait for the coroner to determine cause of death. Cal's athletic team doctor, Casey Batton, said that he had known Agu since he arrived in Berkeley as a freshman in 2010 and had never known him to struggle in workouts before.

According to Batton, Agu was on an early-morning training run with the football team. When he started to struggle, near Bowles Hall - about 150 yards from the stadium - officials put him on a cart to drive him back. Batton said Agu was alert, talking and hydrating on the ride, but collapsed as the cart entered the stadium. CPR was immediately administered, a defibrillator was utilized and emergency personnel arrived. Agu was transported to Alta Bates Medical Center, where he died.

Though Cal quickly put up a protective shield around the team, and not many outside the program knew much about Agu, by all accounts he was a shining example of what college athletics can be. He was a walk-on to Jeff Tedford's team who had earned an athletic scholarship last spring from Dykes.

"I can't tell you how sad this makes me feel," said Tedford, the new offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. "When I first heard it, I couldn't believe it. I can't imagine what his teammates are going through because it happened right in front of them."

Agu was described as a young man with a zest for life, academics and his team. He wanted to go to medical school. He worked as a peer counselor for incoming freshmen.

"Ted's the ultimate team guy," Dykes said. "He came here because he loved the game. He had a passion for life, he loved to learn, he loved to laugh. He had a great sense of humor.

"He was rewarded with an athletic scholarship because of his hard work and dedication. He's what's good about college athletics. He's exactly what you want from a young man."

This is one more blow to a struggling program. Cal has been under a dark cloud in recent years, enduring a terrible stretch plagued by the type of problems that often hit athletic programs: losses on the field, problems in the classroom, recruiting difficulties, financial woes. Dykes has been criticized quite often since he arrived at Cal in December 2012.

The death of a player is in a completely different category. A sobering loss that makes every other difficulty pale in comparison.