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How Maryland went from reinstating DJ Durkin to firing him one day later

The timeline of two crazy days in College Park.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland placed DJ Durkin on leave in August. Two months later, an investigation into his football program detailed a culture in which “problems festered because too many players feared speaking out,” portraying Durkin in a mixed light. The University System of Maryland Board of Regents met five times to discuss these findings. Ultimately, it recommended that Maryland reinstate Durkin as its head football coach Tuesday afternoon. He was back with the team immediately.

Then the school fired him just over 24 hours later.

It’s an incredible 180 that, ultimately, leaves nobody satisfied. Both the school and the Board of Regents will have plenty of questions to answer in the coming days, weeks and months. Here’s a full accounting of how Tuesday and Wednesday went down.

Before Tuesday — This had gone on for months. Jordan McNair died in June, reports of a “toxic” culture came out in August, the investigation into the program’s handling of McNair concluded in September, the report on the program’s culture was released last week and the Board of Regents had met multiple times to discuss its findings. We posted the full timeline of events Tuesday morning (it’s since been updated to include some of what’s below).

Tuesday, 10 a.m. ET — The Board announces a press conference at 3:30 p.m., which meant some sort of long-awaited announcement was likely.

Noon — Interim head coach Matt Canada addresses the media. He’s asked some questions about the investigation and other off-field topics, but he does everything he can to focus on football. He says he hasn’t been informed of a decision regarding Durkin.

1:45 — The Washington Post’s Rick Maese reports the Board is expected to recommend reinstating Durkin and retaining Evans.

2:21 — InsideMdSports’ Jeff Ermann reports Durkin is returning to the sideline, effective immediately.

2:30 — Maese tweets that Durkin and Evans are indeed retained, and University president Wallace Loh is retiring in June.

3:30, Baltimore — This is the press conference’s scheduled time; like most press conferences throughout this saga, it begins around 15 minutes late. The presser lasts about 40 minutes, and all of the earlier reporting is confirmed. Board of Regents chair James Brady announces the Board accepts the findings and proposals of the commission report, and recommends keeping Durkin and Evans. Loh follows Brady at the podium, and after a lengthy metaphor about steering a ship (in this case, a flagship), he announces his retirement. He calls Evans “one of the best athletic directors in the country” but does not mention Durkin by name; reports suggest he wanted to fire Durkin but had been threatened by the Board not to.

3:30, College Park — Football practice begins. Durkin is back. During his first meeting with the team, three players walk out. Further reporting has identified the players as Ellis McKennie, Brendan Moore and Avery Edwards. McKennie reportedly returned to practice, while the other two didn’t.

5:30 — Jordan McNair’s parents and their attorneys conduct their own press conference. Marty McNair says “it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach and someone spit in my face.”

7:17 — McKennie, a high school teammate of McNair, is the first player to share his thoughts on Twitter. He’s not pleased.

8:30 — During the second half of the men’s basketball exhibition against Lynn, Maryland releases official statements from Durkin and Evans.

Tuesday/Wednesday — So much backlash. From everywhere.

Maryland students organize a Justice for Jordan rally, to take place Thursday afternoon. (That’s reportedly still happening.) Local and national media take the school and the Board of Regents to task.

Politicians get involved, too. Rep. Anthony Brown (D), whose Congressional district includes part of College Park, calls for Brady to resign, while Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) says he’s “not satisfied” with the decision. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) expresses concern in the decision Tuesday, then releases a statement Wednesday afternoon calling for Loh and the Board of Regents to “reconsider their decisions.” Those are just a few examples.

Wednesday afternoon — Maryland football practices again. Durkin’s there. According to reports, the players who walked out Tuesday are all at practice—they didn’t want to quit on their teammates—while a different group of players, unknown in size, is absent.

Around 6:00 — Damon Evans reportedly informs Durkin after practice of his termination, then tells the team. “Nobody batted an eyelash,” Ermann reports.

6:29 — Maese drops the bombshell that Maryland has changed course and is firing Durkin.

The reporters highlighted above all said Wednesday’s decision was prompted by the backlash, and that the call came from Loh and Evans, who did not consult with the Board but did inform the regents of the decision.

Ultimately, it’s the outcome that was widely expected when Durkin was placed on leave two and a half months ago. For recruiting and PR purposes, it seemed virtually impossible to bring him back, regardless of what the investigation concluded about the culture he fostered within his program and how that related to McNair’s death. Maryland reinstated him anyway, got blasted for it, then relented.

Nobody expected this short of a turnaround. But to capture how absurd it all is ... well, let’s check the scoops.