DJ Durkin has been reinstated as Maryland’s head football coach, and he had his first meeting with his team since August before Tuesday’s scheduled practice. Several players walked out of that meeting, according to ESPN and The Washington Post. The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach was first to report the number as three.
InsideMdSports’ Jeff Ermann said one of the players to walk out, Ellis McKennie, returned to practice. McKennie spoke out on Twitter on Tuesday evening.
Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate. Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right. pic.twitter.com/AaZVmLGTtS— Ellis McKennie (@emck_cubed97) October 30, 2018
Durkin addressed the team at around 3:30 p.m., which was shortly after the University System of Maryland Board of Regents announced that he and Damon Evans would remain in their positions. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reports the players who walked out were starters.
Before the press conference, InsideMdSports’ Jeff Ermann reported that reaction to Durkin’s return was likely to be mixed:
“Players and coaches have varying opinions on whether Durkin should return, as two sources inside the program said his return could prompt some players to consider quitting or transferring out after the season; some believe the program’s manhood-challenging culture under Durkin and departed strength coach Rick Court was unhealthy, and might have led to McNair being pushed beyond the point of exertion. Some are also disheartened by Durkin and the university’s response to McNair’s death, while other players and parents of players have expressed their support for Durkin.”
Ermann reports that Durkin is expected to return to the sidelines on Saturday against Michigan State, though university president Wallace Loh and USM chairman James Brady did not confirm that in the press conference.
The Board of Regents decided to reinstate Durkin after deliberating for over a week about an independent commission’s report into the culture of the program. The report did not go as far as to say the program had a “toxic” culture, but said there were still serious problems that needed to be fixed.
The report detailed a dysfunctional athletic department from the top down, including Durkin. Durkin said he was not sure who former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court reported to, even though Court’s contract said he reported to Durkin. This basically allowed Court to have complete autonomy during his tenure at Maryland. The report also detailed how players were afraid to speak of mistreatment under Court, and some viewed the two as “the same person.” Court later reached a settlement with the school days after the initial ESPN report on the program’s culture.