The University of Maryland’s Board of Regents met on Friday morning in the wake of a tumultuous stretch of time for the school. The most pressing items on the Board’s agenda:
1. Discussion of personnel matters concerning specific individuals at UMCP.
2. Discussion with staff and legal counsel regarding a potential lawsuit against a USM institution.
Brett McMurphy can translate that for you:
Maryland Board of Trustees calls special closed meeting Friday. Topics include “removal, resignation, employment, litigation, legal counsel or personnel matters” related to university’s impending lawsuit & possibly future of President Wallace Loh, AD Damon Evans & Coach DJ Durkin— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 16, 2018
The Board met for almost four hours, and released a brief statement several hours after concluding its meeting: It has decided to take over the two investigations into the football program, and will release more details next week. University president Wallace Loh reportedly participated in the meeting, and was on campus Saturday morning as the panel he commissioned was set to begin its work.
There's one report out about the meeting so far, which we have not confirmed.
MARYLAND UPDATE: According to Univ. sources, the board of Regents came away from Friday’s meeting believing school president Dr. Wallace Loh, AD Damon Evans, head coach DJ Durkin should all be relieved of their positions. The announcement to come in next two weeks. Con’ t #terps— Chick Hernandez (@MrChickSports) August 19, 2018
University sources told me the board plans to reach out to Hall of Famer, former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams to be the school’s interim AD. Williams has not been contacted as of this report. #terps #nojob #stillbeating— Chick Hernandez (@MrChickSports) August 19, 2018
This all comes in the wake of Maryland’s handling of the death of Jordan McNair, whose life ended June 13, two weeks after he collapsed at the team’s first organized workout at the summer. After deep ESPN reporting on the team’s handling of that practice, as well as into the staff’s player treatment practices, the school placed head coach DJ Durkin and three strength and training staffers on leave. One of the latter three, football head strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, parted with the team after a settlement.
So: With Durkin already on leave, will Maryland’s president and AD follow him out the door?
The odds that Durkin coaches another game for Maryland appear to be miniscule. While many players have publicly supported him, the school hasn’t disputed much of what ESPN reported. In the meantime, Jordan McNair’s parents called for Durkin to be fired on national television.
The fact that the board of regents may discuss the status of Loh and athletic director Damon Evans is reason enough for us to wonder if they’re not long for Maryland. But this kind of discussion is one worth having whether the board is meeting or not.
Wallace Loh has been Maryland’s president since 2010. Will he be around much longer?
Even if we just focus on Maryland’s handling of the Jordan McNair scandal, Loh doesn’t escape blame. He appeared to win over a lot of onlookers in Maryland’s press conference on Tuesday by saying the school accepted “moral and legal responsibility” for McNair’s death and announcing a panel that would investigate the football program’s culture.
But Loh’s decision-making prior to that press conference has come under question. He barely spoke about McNair’s death in the two months prior to that press conference, though reports say he visited with the team and the family.
Before we get anywhere else, Loh’s decision to hire Evans as the full-time athletic director looks worse and worse with every passing day. After hiring a search firm, Maryland ended up with the same AD with baggage that it had running things in the interim, and did so before:
A. The conclusion of the investigation into Maryland’s training policies.
B. Well before the search committee’s contract runs out on Aug. 22.
Loh looks even worse after The Washington Post reported he blocked a proposal last year that would have revamped the school’s health care for athletes. The proposal included having athletic trainers report to the university’s medical center in Baltimore so they could be “autonomous from any influence by the school’s athletic department”. It’s not completely clear whether doing so would have resulted in the school reacting properly to McNair’s heatstroke and saving his life, but it’s another negative shadow at a time when Loh can ill-afford one.
Northwestern head trainer Tory Lindley, who’s head of the National Athletics Trainers’ Association, told The Post that having a separate campus oversee sports medicine is the “gold standard.”
“Knowing that independent autonomy exists in our independent situation at Northwestern, which is the one I can speak most intimately to, is great,” she told The Post.
This quote, from Loh himself while arguing the University of North Carolina deserved the death penalty, is especially relevant now:
“As president, I sit over a number of dormant volcanoes. One of them is an athletic scandal. It blows up, it blows up the university, its reputation, it blows up the president.”
We’ll see if Loh ends up predicting his own fate.
Say this for Wallace Loh: He is really good at giving people turtle pins and smiling, then expressing outrage when people he brought to Maryland are caught up in bad things— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) August 11, 2018
Maryland was Damon Evans’ second chance. Will he be around to see football season?
Evans came to Maryland in 2014 after spending four years outside the world of college athletics. He was previously athletic director at the University of Georgia, a position he held from 2004 to 2010. The Bulldogs were profitable and won a bunch of games across many sports with Evans in charge.
But Evans resigned in 2010 after an arrest and DUI charge that found him in a car with a woman who was not his wife, with her underwear in his lap, and included him saying to a police officer: “I am not trying to bribe you, but is there anything you can do without arresting me?”
Evans excelled at raising money while at Georgia, which likely played a factor in his getting the full-time AD job at a school that still needs to raise $19 million to complete its indoor football facility.
Evans was reportedly the one who negotiated Durkin’s contract with Maryland, and reportedly had a strong relationship with the Terps’ head football coach. Evans had already been the interim AD for eight months when McNair died, and provided limited details on the workout in question at a press conference afterwards.
Like Loh, he’ll see blame for not taking any action toward the team until ESPN published its reports. Like Durkin, Evans looks bad for seeming to not tell the McNair family—or the public—the whole story of what happened to their son.
If Evans makes it to October, he’ll have already served a full year as Maryland’s AD. It’s easy to wonder now if he’ll make it a few more weeks.
This story was updated after the Board of Regents released its statement on Friday. It has since been updated again after a report that Maryland is expected to move on from Loh, Evans and Durkin