Maryland football is officially without a head coach again, firing DJ Durkin Wednesday after a wild two-day saga. Here’s a quick look at how we got here, starting at the beginning of Durkin’s tenure:
December 2015: Kevin Anderson hires DJ Durkin as Maryland’s new head coach, to just about universal praise.
Fresh off a one-year gig as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, Durkin comes to Maryland for his first job as a head coach. Everyone is excited, including Maryland students, after a very underwhelming few years by Randy Edsall.
Durkin signs two of Maryland’s best recruiting classes ever.
It became obvious why the Terps’ new head coach came in with a reputation as an energetic recruiter. Maryland did lose the commitments of some blue-chip prospects, including a QB, but Durkin’s first full class in 2017 ranked in the top 20 on 247Sports’ leaderboard, and his second was in the top 30. Under Edsall, Maryland’s classes hovered around the 40s. The future feels bright for Maryland, though the Big Ten East isn’t getting any less frightening.
2016 and 2017: Maryland’s on-field product is ... still Maryland football.
Durkin’s on-field product is still a work in progress. But a bowl berth in his first season was all Maryland fans could have asked for, and catastrophic quarterback injuries sabotaged a 4-8 follow-up campaign. Blowout losses were a big part of both seasons, but it seemed an improvement from what happened in the previous regime.
October 2017: Anderson goes on what Maryland called a six-month “sabbatical,” but everyone knew he wasn’t coming back.
This is first reported as a firing, which Maryland then denies. This is weird from the beginning, as the “sabbatical” just seems like a way to postpone Anderson’s exit. Damon Evans, the former Georgia AD who’d been serving as football liaison and assistant athletic director, becomes the interim AD.
Investigators will later outline Anderson’s sabbatical as the result of years of mistrust between he and university president Wallace Loh. The breaking point, investigators say, is when Anderson approved the use of university foundation funds to pay for a lawyer to defend two Maryland players accused of sexual assault by another Maryland athlete. Investigators say Loh and Anderson both knew at the time of the “sabbatical” that Anderson would not return. The reason given to investigators for announcing this the way Maryland did was so it would not draw attention for fans or media to think that the move was related to the FBI’s college basketball investigation. Maryland ended up getting mentioned there anyway.
April: Maryland announces Anderson’s permanent departure.
May 29, 2018: Jordan McNair collapses at Maryland football’s first organized workout of the summer.
Information trickles out slowly about this. Maryland first announced a few days after the workout that McNair, a redshirt freshman, was hospitalized in “critical but stable condition.”
June 13: Jordan McNair dies.
No cause of death is announced at the time, though rumors persisted that heat stroke or heat-related illness was at least a factor.
June 15: Maryland holds a press conference addressing McNair’s death.
“My heart is broken for the reason that we’re all even sitting here,” an emotional Durkin says at the press conference. “You look for reasons. It’s not reasonable that a 19-year-old should pass away. It’s not reasonable that a family, parents, his parents, Marty and Tonya, should ever have to go through this.
“Jordan was such a tremendous person. As big as he was stature-wise, his heart was much bigger. He had a great way about him, a quiet smile. It was hard to get a word out of him, but it was also hard to have a conversation with him without bringing a smile to your own face.”
Evans also gives a brief timeline of the May 29 workout, and says the school will hire someone to examine what led to McNair’s collapse.
June 19: Maryland announces it has hired Rod Walters to examine “relevant policies and protocols.”
Walters is a former SEC head trainer who now runs a sports medicine group. The school says the Walters investigation could take up to 90 days.
June 26: Maryland promotes Damon Evans to permanent athletic director.
With that investigation ongoing, Maryland finally starts moving forward to find a new athletic director. After interviewing Evans, former Tennessee AD John Currie and Temple AD Patrick Kraft, University of Maryland president Wallace Loh hires Evans. This receives decidedly mixed reviews.
July 12: Maryland releases some new info about the workout where McNair collapsed, including that Durkin was present.
It’ll later be revealed that the whole coaching staff was there. Neither of these were exactly denied previously, but Maryland didn’t mention or hint at the idea that coaches were there, and complicated NCAA rules meant most media and fans weren’t sure.
July 16: Jordan McNair Foundation website says heatstroke caused McNair’s death.
Aug. 10: ESPN drops two major stories.
The first outlines accounts from several players from the workout where McNair collapsed. It’s the first place we hear allegations from current players that head trainer Wes Robinson yelled “drag his ass across the field,” to trainers while McNair didn’t look right:
“There were multiple people that said, ‘Wow, Jordan looks f---ed up, he doesn’t look all right,’” one player told ESPN. “We knew he was really exhausted, but we didn’t know he was in danger of his life. But that doesn’t mean that a medical professional shouldn’t know to put him in an ice tub.”
The second story, released later that day, is where we first hear the words “toxic culture.” This story outlines allegations from anonymous players, former players and former Maryland staff members who say Durkin presided over a team where verbal abuse of players was common and went beyond what some staff members experienced at other programs.
Aug. 11: Maryland places DJ Durkin and two members of its medical staff on leave.
The day after ESPN publishes those stories, news comes out that Durkin is now on paid administrative leave, as are athletic department head trainer Steve Nordwall and Robinson, the head football trainer. Durkin’s comments to investigators later would say that the coach did not feel he got to explain his side of the story before the school moved to place him on leave. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada, hired in the offseason to replace Walt Bell, is appointed interim head coach.
Aug. 14: Wallace Loh and Damon Evans hold a press conference.
Here, Loh announces the school accepts “legal and moral responsibility” for Jordan McNair’s death. This appears to be regarded well nationally, but University System power brokers are later reported to be unhappy about those comments.
Among the takeaways: Loh and Evans admitted missteps on the part of training staff present, but were careful not to mention the coaching staff. Evans says the school has parted with football strength coach Rick Court. This is quickly reported as a settlement between Court and the school.
Loh announces he’s formed a panel to investigate the culture of Maryland football.
Aug. 16: McNair parents say DJ Durkin “shouldn’t be able to work with anybody else’s kid.”
Aug. 19: USM Board of Regents takes over Loh’s investigation.
The Board, which oversees all 12 state institutions, votes to assume authority over the investigation Loh just announced and the Walters Investigation.
Sept. 1: Maryland beats Texas. In football. Again.
The season finally starts, with many eyes rightfully focused on things off the field. Maryland then proceeds to more or less do its usual thing, which means losing comfortably to some of the nation’s best teams and burying some of the nation’s worst. The Terps are 5-3 as of this writing.
Sept. 21: USM Board announces Walters Investigation findings.
Walters insisted he was not there to make any larger decisions or determinations about the football program, and was just in charge of making some recommendations on procedural changes. His report shines a negative light on Maryland’s training staff, whom he says failed to properly recognize McNair’s “atypical” signs of heat exhaustion.
Sept. 30: A Washington Post story outlines more allegations against Durkin and Rick Court.
This story, headlined, “Motivation or abuse? Maryland confronts football’s fine line as new allegations emerge.” has new allegations against Durkin and football strength coach Rick Court, Durkin’s first hire at Maryland. Among many things, it outlines a letter sent to Loh’s office from an anonymous team parent in 2016 outlining allegations similar to what anonymous players are saying in 2018, which the commission investigating Maryland football says it had not seen before. This story addresses the problem at the center of this controversy: what some players see as abuse, others see as tough, but fair, motivation.
Oct. 6: Booster doesn’t travel to Maryland-Michigan following player outrage over his comments on Jordan McNair’s death.
Oct. 19: Board meets to hear investigators’ findings, announces a timeline for any personnel moves.
About two months after the investigation was announced and five months after McNair’s death, we’re nearing the finish line. The Board says it will meet again on Oct. 23, and gives itself a deadline of Oct. 30 to announce any “initial” recommendations or personnel decisions on Durkin, Evans, Loh and anyone else involved.
Oct. 23: USM Board meets again.
Reporters watch this meeting from the outside. Tough to tell what goes on inside closed doors. The only info released is that the Board will meet again in two days.
Oct. 25: Investigators’ report becomes public as the Board meets a third time.
As we wait for the Board to meet on Thursday, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun obtain copies of the almost 200-page report. The school’s investigators decide in the report that Maryland football’s culture does not match their technical definition of “toxic,” but there’s still a lot to process in it, almost none of it positive. Among the takeaways: Maryland’s athletic department is a mess, and football players seem less happy than those in other sports at the university. Readers and reporters everywhere comb over it.
Oct. 26: Board meets a fourth time, and Loh, Evans and Durkin show up to make their cases.
Durkin and Evans both exit the meeting and decline comment to reporters on the scene. No announcements come afterward.
Oct. 29: Another Board of Regents meeting.
Durkin, Loh and Evans were all reportedly scheduled to meet with USM chancellor Robert Caret, but those meetings were then canceled. The Board met again at 5 p.m.
Tuesday and Wednesday merit their own timeline. But in short...
Durkin met with the team, and three players reportedly walked out of the meeting upon his return.
This news came after outrage at Durkin’s return from just about everywhere.
Now you’re all caught up!
We’ll update this timeline when something else happens.