It was not a good weekend for Maryland football. After ESPN published reports about the staff’s handling of Jordan McNair’s death and treatment of players under head coach D.J. Durkin, the school placed Durkin, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, head football trainer Wes Robinson and head athletic trainer Steve Nordwall on administrative leave.
The initial story, published Friday afternoon by Heather Dinich, said that McNair showed signs of “extreme exhaustion” during the May 29th workout that led to McNair’s death. A player told ESPN that McNair had trouble finishing the workout on his own and was not in control of his body by the time it was over. This contradicts Maryland’s official timeline, which says that McNair “was talking to our trainers throughout.”
Following this report, a university spokesperson announced the school had placed several staff members on administrative leave. On Saturday, it was announced that Court, Robinson and Nordwall were the staff members placed on leave.
An additional story was published a few hours later with reporting by Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Tom VanHaaren about the team’s “toxic culture.” The Washington Post spoke to a player who confirmed some of the allegations in the ESPN story, and said that players “showed up everyday scared of what would happen.” The Baltimore Sun obtained a copy of a letter Durkin sent to parents of players saying the ESPN report may “prompt questions.”
Several players, alumni and recruits defended Durkin and the staff in spite of the report, while Will Muschamp, who was Durkin’s former boss at Florida, called ESPN’s use of anonymous sources “gutless.” Former defensive end Roman Braglio, who was a captain on Durkin’s first team at Maryland, also defended Durkin.
On Saturday, athletic director Damon Evans placed Durkin on administrative leave, and announced the athletic department would be conducting its own investigation into the culture of the football program. University president Wallace Loh issued a statement as well, saying that the university would conduct an external investigation into the culture of the program as well.
With Durkin on leave, Matt Canada was named interim head coach. The school is also awaiting results of an external investigation into McNair’s death conducted by Walters Inc., and is expected to wrap up by Sept. 15.
Maryland starts its season in less than three weeks on Sept. 1 against Texas, but the impact of McNair’s death and this weekend’s allegations will continue long after that. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
In other news
This weekend’s story dominated the Maryland news cycle, so here’s a few more links:
- Thomas gave his take on the ESPN report.
- Community reaction to DJ Durkin being placed on leave was mixed, writes The Baltimore Sun’s Don Markus.
- According to The Washington Post, the team was “stunned and confused” as Durkin addressed them for possibly the final time on Saturday.
- Also from The Washington Post: Maryland’s 2019 recruits remain committed, for now (Three-star offensive lineman Parker Moorer did decommit this weekend, though).
Now for some non-football related links:
Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach Terry Nooner is leaving the team to join the Cleveland Cavaliers staff. Nooner and current Cavs head coach Tyronne Lue were high school teammates.
The current Maryland men’s basketball team finished their Italy trip with a 75-66 over The Netherland’s B team on Saturday. Here are the highlights: