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The commission report shows Maryland’s athletic department is one big mess

The report mainly focused on the football program, but revealed more deeply rooted problems.

damon evans-maryland-athletic director-bio-hired-georgia Maryland Athletics

The report on Maryland football’s culture was released Thursday, with the independent investigation overseen by the Board of Regents finding that the team’s culture had problems, but was not what they deemed “toxic.”

While that was the main goal of the report, it also revealed some problems that were bigger than the football program. If someone wanted to write a book about athletic department dysfunction in college sports, it would start and end at Maryland.

To see where this dysfunction started, just look at the leadership at the top of the department. Kevin Anderson’s time as athletic director was marked by high turnover, with 14 executives leaving in the last five years compared to five in his predecessor, Debbie Yow’s last five.

But more disturbing is that Anderson had a tenure of “freezing out” employees. Here’s this excerpt from the report:

“According to several staff members, Mr. Anderson would stop inviting the person to meetings, even those relating to the person’s duties, and his communications with the person would decrease dramatically. His conduct was described by two interviewees as “passive aggressive.” As a result, while those who were “frozen out” technically still carried their titles, in practice they were no longer provided the access and information they needed to do their jobs. These individuals naturally sought employment elsewhere, whether inside or outside UMD.”

One of the people Anderson eventually froze out was his successor, Damon Evans. The report said both men got along when Evans was brought on in 2014 before deteriorating the next year. Anderson accused Evans of going over his head to meet with Loh on athletic department matters, and eventually stripped him of some his responsibilities while golfing with a donor around May 2017. Around the same time, Anderson proposed a plan to overhaul the school’s sports medicine policies that university president Dr. Wallace Loh eventually nixed.

During this time, a former coach compared the athletic department’s dysfunction to “Washington (politics).”

The dysfunction trickled down to individual coaches, including Anderson’s relationship with DJ Durkin. In what should’ve been a strong relationship, the report indicates it was anything but.

“Mr. Durkin states that he received no orientation or help with the responsibilities of being a first-time head coach: managing a staff, ensuring compliance with NCAA rules and University policies, hiring staff, and obtaining equipment. He found the Maryland bureaucracy to be more challenging than what he had experienced at other schools.”

This type of dysfunction was common not just in the football program, but in athletics as a whole. The commission said that the athletic department did not have an organizational chart, which is concerning since there are 21 subsections of the department outside of athletic teams.

Here’s how Jewel Washington, the University of Human Resources department chief, described the situation:

First, at her prior employer, she worked with the AD to train head coaches on managing their staff. In the case of a first-time coach like Mr. Durkin, training also included borrowing from best practices derived from the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference, and other sources, as well as learning how to follow UMD processes. Second, Ms. Washington would establish a performance management system to evaluate the members of the athletics department, including coaching staffs.

None of this happened, however, upon Mr. Durkin’s arrival.

According to Ms. Washington: “[h]ere [in Maryland athletics], there is no structure. That is not normal.”

Even though Durkin’s hiring proves how disorganized the athletic department was, it doesn’t compare to former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court’s situation. In his time at Maryland, no one in the athletic department or university said it was their job to oversee Court. He had no idea who his supervisor was during his tenure and didn’t receive a single performance review.

Court’s contract said he reported to Durkin, while Durkin believed Anderson told him he reported to Dr. David Klossner, who’s currently the associate AD for sports performance. Evans and Klossner have a different story, saying they knew Court was supposed to report to Durkin. According to the report, this was different than other arrangements made by the school where the strength and conditioning coach reported to the head coach along with the associate AD to make sure competitive interests don’t override what is best for the athlete.

It’s clear that Maryland’s athletic department was one full of finger-pointing, lack of accountability and just general incompetence. With such poor leadership, it’s easy to see how Durkin could run a program where problems boiled up before spinning out of control.