DJ Durkin will return to the sidelines as Maryland football’s head coach this weekend, as first reported by InsideMdSports’ Jeff Ermann. The Baltimore Sun’s Don Markus and The Washington Post’s Rick Maese confirmed the news.
According to subsequent reports, athletic director Damon Evans will also continue in his role, while university president Wallace Loh will retire in June. Loh reportedly did not want to reinstate Durkin, but was urged by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents to do so. Multiple reports indicate Loh was told he’d be removed if he did otherwise.
This comes after five Board of Regents meetings over the course of more than a week, during which the 17-member group that oversees all 12 state universities deliberated over the fates of Durkin, Evans and Loh.
The Terps’ head coach had been away from the team for over two months. He was put on administrative leave on Aug. 11 after ESPN published two stories: one detailing the program’s alleged mishandling of Jordan McNair at the workout where he collapsed before dying two weeks later, and another outlining what the publication described as a “toxic culture.” More specifically, the second ESPN story alleged a pattern of bullying and verbal abuse under Durkin and strength coach Rick Court. The Washington Post published a story outlining similar allegations on Sept. 30. The story noted that players did appear split on whether Durkin should return.
“We have said from the beginning that, if true, the allegations related to the culture of the football program at the University of Maryland, College Park are unacceptable,”USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady said in a statement on Oct. 17. “We have also said we are determined to get all the facts possible before acting.
The eight-person investigation into the football program defined toxic as “extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful,” and decided that the culture they found, defined as one “where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out,” did not match that definition. Investigators also decided that because the culture was not toxic, they did not hold Durkin responsible in McNair’s death.
He’ll return to a team that appeared at least split on whether they wanted him back. Comments in the almost 200-page report painted the picture of a team comprised of some players who wanted Durkin gone for good and others who wanted him back.
Here are two of the extremes, from player quotes in the investigation findings:
“He loves the game, and loves our team. It is not his fault the training staff didn’t take proper care. He would never have allowed that. He cares for us. He deserves to be back, was not in the wrong. Never threw food at anybody or used physical harm. Coach Durkin is innocent.”
“If you’re not a superstar he doesn’t really care about you. You are just a number on the roster. He needs to learn how to control his staff and become a decent human being. He should not be our head coach.”
Maryland’s next game is against Michigan State on Saturday. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada, whom Durkin hired in the offseason, had served as interim head coach in Durkin’s absence. It’s unclear how the transition back to a Durkin-led team will play out.