The Maryland booster who made comments about Jordan McNair in a Diamondback story last week was removed from the itinerary for the Terps’ charter flight to Michigan over the weekend, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reported and the booster later confirmed in an interview with The Washington Post.
Rick Jaklitsch was one of many boosters scheduled to make the flight. Rittenberg reports:
But when players saw his name on the passenger manifest, they became outraged, sources said, and told athletics staffers, including Cheryl Harrison, Maryland’s senior associate athletic director and chief development officer. Jaklitsch was informed he wouldn’t be traveling with other boosters and the team.
In a story published by The Diamondback’s Andy Kostka on Monday, Jaklitsch appeared to place blame for McNair’s death on the training staff and called the school’s decision to put DJ Durkin on leave “ridiculous.” Then he was quoted as saying:
“As much as we hate to say this, Jordan didn’t do what Jordan was supposed to do,” Jaklitsch said. “A trainer like Wes Robinson thinks a kid’s properly hydrated and runs a drill set up for kids that are properly hydrated, and when the kid didn’t drink the gallon he knew he had to drink, that’s going to send the wrong signal to the person running the drill.”
ESPN reports that Jaklitsch’s comments “upset many in the program” and that many players told football staff they did not want him around the team’s activities.
Jaklitsch is a member of “The Champions Club,” a group of high-level boosters who authored a letter supporting Durkin in August.
In an interview with The Washington Post published late Sunday night, Jaklitsch confirmed the news and clarified his comments somewhat:
“I understand how much these kids have been through. They lose one of their best friends and a great kid — Jordan. It’s amazing what the coaches have been through. We need to all support each other, and it should be ‘Go Terps’ all the time,” he said. “And the media keeps picking at a scab and there are raw feelings there from a lot of people at Maryland. And you can understand when you lose someone as loved as Jordan that there are going to be raw feelings. I certainly understand that.”
He went on to say that “there’s no one to blame. Just tragedies happen sometimes. It’s part of God’s plan,” and that the media has been “hunting for heads on pikes.”
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Jaklitsch offered a bit more:
“The last thing I would ever do is blame Jordan and I certainly apologize to anybody who felt I was blaming Jordan,” Jaklitsch told The Sun. “Jordan was a great kid. He made me laugh every single time I talked to him.”
Jaklitsch says he offered to withdraw from the trip after a school staff member told him three players were uncomfortable with him traveling on the team plane.
“They at no time told me I wasn’t welcome,” Jaklitsch told The Sun. “They invited me to dinner that night with the boosters. It was a decision I made not to distract the team, not to distract the coaching staff. They’ve been through enough.”
The incident doesn’t appear to mean Jaklitsch is withdrawing his support from the program. Far from it, in fact. His words:
“I’ve been on trips for 20 years. I’ll be on trips for another 20 years, hopefully,” Jaklitsch told The Post. “They could have used me. I’m still undefeated when I’m on the sidelines. But I refuse to be selfish. I’ll do whatever it takes to support Maryland. If I can support them by not being there, I’ll not be there. It’s all about the players, it’s all about the coaches, it’s all about my Terps.”
ESPN reports Maryland athletic director Damon Evans denied comment when contacted about the decision to remove Jaklitsch from the team’s travel plans.
Maryland’s Board of Regents awaits the results of an investigation it oversees into the football program’s team culture and player treatment. Board of Regents Chair James Brady said on Sept. 21 that the results of that investigation would be back “soon.”
This story was initially published on Sunday after the ESPN report, and was updated on Monday to include Jaklitsch’s comments to The Washington Post.