University of Maryland President Wallace Loh and Athletics Director Damon Evans held a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon to address the preliminary findings of their investigation into the death of Jordan McNair.
You can watch the whole thing here.
On hand for AD Damon Evans and President Wallace Loh's joint press conference in the wake of the recent Maryland foo https://t.co/WfcIEiM9SH— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) August 14, 2018
It’s the first time either has spoken to the media since Evans was named the school’s full-time athletic director less than two weeks after McNair’s death. In the interim, ESPN has released a series of reports detailing the events that led to McNair collapsing at a Maryland workout and eventually to his death two weeks later, the alleged “toxic culture” of the program and an interview with the McNair’s family attorney calling for DJ Durkin to be fired.
Maryland responded over the weekend by placing head coach DJ Durkin, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, football trainer Wes Robinson and head of athletic training Steve Nordwall on administrative leave.
Here are some of the main takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference:
Maryland is accepting ‘legal and moral responsibility’ for Jordan McNair’s death.
One of the first things of substance Loh said when he stepped up to the podium was that, “Based on what [it knows] at this time, the University of Maryland accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May 29.”
It’s not exactly clear the extent of what that may entail at this point. The McNair family’s attorney, Billy Murphy has said that it’s likely that there will be a civil suit filed in federal court. But Hassan Murphy, another partner of the firm, added after Tuesday’s presser:
Statement via the McNair family lawyers: pic.twitter.com/7Z5GcPV9X1— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) August 14, 2018
Maryland seems unlikely to make any staff changes based on the Walters, Inc. investigation before it’s conclusion. But there is a new, four-person investigative team that will be looking into the alleged culture of the program. Loh said Tuesday that that investigation would be swift. Staff changes could be made whenever that investigation wraps up, even if it’s before the initial one.
Loh and Evans appear to have no intentions of stepping down.
Each man stood at the podium Tuesday to express sorrow for the situation and extend their sincerest apologies to the McNair family. But while they each sounded regretful, they also seemed prepared to continue with the day-to-day operations of their jobs while the investigations move forward.
“I believe that I’m the one who can lead us through these very difficult times,” Evans said.
Before he was even named interim athletic director, Evans oversaw the football program as executive AD. He was asked if he bore any responsibility for the alleged misconduct that may have occurred under his watch or if he was negligent for not knowing about it, but side-stepped the question.
“As I’ll restate, I did not witness those things,” Evans said. “Today, what we’re focussed on is making sure that we provide that safe environment. That has always been what we’ve wanted to do. Dr. Loh expressed the values that we hold high and dear as an institution. We’re going to make sure that we stick to those values moving forward.”
The team’s medical staff appears to have miserably failed.
Both Loh and Evans’s statements revolved around the failures of the medical staff, and made little mention of Durkin’s involvement. The school has reported that he was present at the workout, but it is not clear what his involvement was on that day.
Based on the preliminary report Walters, Inc. has provided the school, McNair’s temperature was not taken, nor were his vital signs. He was not properly cooled. Other actions that should have been taken were not. Maryland’s emergency response plan was not properly followed. Evans and Loh noted that some of the athletic department’s protocols did not adhere to best practices.
Robinson, who reportedly yelled at players to “drag” Jordan McNair’s “ass across the field,” at the workout where McNair collapsed, and Nordwall are still on administrative leave.
Rick Court is no longer with the program.
Court, Maryland football’s head strength and conditioning coach, was one of the main subjects of the ESPN report alleging inappropriate behavior by Maryland’s staff. Evans said at the press conference that the school and Court “parted ways,” and Court said in a tweet that he resigned. Yahoo Sports’s Pete Thamel reported that Court resigned Monday and finalized a financial settlement Tuesday.
SOURCE: Maryland strength coach Rick Court reached a financial settlement with the university. He resigned yesterday and a settlement was finalized today.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 14, 2018
Source: Rick Court's settlement with Maryland is a lump sum of $315,000, which is two thirds of what he was due for the remainder of his contract. There's no mitigation going forward. There's also a mutual release of all claims by the school and Court.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 14, 2018
Loh and Evans avoided mentioning Maryland’s coaching staff.
There was virtually no mention of Durkin or any other members of the coaching staff in Tuesday’s press conference, other than to say that there is now a second investigation into the program based on the “toxic culture” allegations.
Evans was asked if, in the wake of Court’s departure from the program, Durkin would be at all responsible for the actions of one of his staff members.
“When reading the article, in sports you always have some complaints that come forward. We look at all of those and make the appropriate decisions moving forward — how to resolve them. When that report came out in ESPN, the severity of those allegations was significant. I sat down with Rick to ascertain what had transpired, and based upon conversations and looking at everything in totality, I felt it was in the best interest to put him on administrative leave.”
Maryland has, at the very least, accepted responsibility for something it should have been able to control in the first place, but where this story turns from here is unclear. Durkin and two members of the medical staff are still on administrative leave. A second investigation has started. Matt Canada’s tenure as interim head coach has only just begun, and the Terps kick the season off against Texas on Sept. 1.