U of Maryland parts ways with head football coach DJ Durkin
UPDATE: The University of Maryland announced it is parting ways with its head football coach DJ Durkin after student groups and lawmakers raised serious concerns about the University System of Maryland Board of Regents' decision to allow him to return to his position following an investigation that found he was partly responsible for turmoil in the university's athletic department.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan earlier today asked the Board of Regents to reconsider the decision to keep Durkin and Athletic Director Damon Evans, as well as the expected retirement of UMD President Wallace Loh in June, reported The Washington Post.
Hogan's statement comes a day after the board said Durkin and Evans will remain in their roles. On the same day, Loh announced his planned retirement.
The events surrounding Loh's decision to retire stem from investigations following the death of a student athlete earlier this year, The Post reported. A source close to the situation told The Post that Loh was aware that if he didn't bring Durkin back, he would be immediately fired.
- A 198-page report obtained by The Washington Post found the University of Maryland's leadership partly responsible for ongoing dysfunction in its athletic department following an investigation prompted by the death of a 19-year-old student-athlete earlier this year after he suffered from exertion-related heat stroke during a football practice.
- University President Wallace Loh called for the investigation a day after ESPN reported offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed during practice after displaying symptoms of extreme heat exhaustion. ESPN reported the coaching environment was "based on fear and intimidation" and included "extreme verbal abuse of players."
- The report found the athletic department "lacked a culture of accountability, did not provide adequate oversight of the football program" and that the university's former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court "engaged in abusive conduct during his tenure at Maryland." The report did not include personnel recommendations for anyone in the athletic department.
The commission was created to probe the football program and its potential role in McNair's death. Its report will help the University System of Maryland Board of Regents determine whether to cut ties with Durkin, The Post reported. Over the course of its investigation, the commission interviewed more than 150 people including former football players, parents of players, athletic department staff and university officials who described a culture where student-athletes were afraid to speak up and problems festered.
The Board of Regents discussed the investigation's findings for nearly seven hours in a meeting last week, reported The Diamondback, the university's independent student newspaper. UMD's president was not present at the meeting.
UMD wrote in a statement that it is "committed to a fair and accountable process" and is "carefully reviewing" the report. It also said it "accepted legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes made in [McNair's] care."
Shortly after the troubling reports surfaced about the football program this summer, the university placed Durkin, Court and two other staffers on administrative leave, according to The Diamondback. Court, who has been at the center of the abuse allegations, resigned after negotiating a settlement. The report stated Court's abuses included "challenging a player's manhood" and "hurling homophobic slurs," which Court denied, as well as throwing weights, food and, in one instance, a vomit-filled trash can, at student-athletes.
A previous independent investigation found more than an hour passed between McNair's first symptoms of heat stroke and when school officials called 911, The Post reported in September. The report also outlined mistakes in UMD's handling of the situation. The university vowed to implement all 27 of the 74-page report's medical care recommendations, though it didn't make any immediate personnel decisions following the findings.
Loh is not the only university president who has been embroiled in scandal in recent months. The University of Southern California's president resigned in August amid allegations of sexual abuse by one of the institution's former gynecologists. USC agreed to a $215 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit. In January, Michigan State University's president resigned after facing criticism for her handling of allegations against the university's former sports doctor Larry Nassar for sexually abusing patients. And the University of Missouri System's president stepped down in 2015 after facing mounting pressure by student activists who complained he had not done enough to address incidents of racism on campus.
- The Washington Post Report on Maryland football culture cites problems but stops short of ‘toxic’ label
- The Washington Post DJ Durkin and Damon Evans will retain jobs at Maryland, source says
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