1. Jordan McNair is dead. Maryland football fans and most of the country are still waiting for more answers.
It’s not an insult to Jordan McNair’s legacy to talk about football now that a football game is about to be played. It would, however, be a disservice to McNair and his family not to mention him first when the program and sport that ultimately led to him losing his life open the season.
Maryland has admitted “legal and moral responsibility” in his death, parted with head strength coach Rick Court and put three other staffers—including head coach DJ Durkin—on leave. We’re awaiting what larger answers the school has for the day McNair died and the two months of mostly silence that followed.
2. When will we get those answers? We sort of have an idea.
There are two investigations into Maryland football as we enter the weekend. One is into the team’s “procedures and protocols involving student-athlete health and safety” as they apply to “planning and conducting team conditioning and practice sessions.” The other is into the allegations of player mistreatment outlined in ESPN’s big report on the team.
The first investigation is expected to conclude by Sept. 15. That day is a Saturday, and Maryland plays a football game that day. So it appears unlikely that we’ll get answers on that specific day, though I’d expect some shortly before or after. Ohio State’s panel investigating Urban Meyer met on a Sunday night before the school released its conclusions and punishments on a Wednesday night. That’s just one example, though, and we don’t know for sure how things will play out.
The other investigation doesn’t have an announced end date, though it’d be surprising to see it take longer than that same Sept. 15 date.
3. Maryland football players aren’t in the wrong here.
College football is morally bankrupt. There’s not too much arguing against that. Address all comments on that idea here. In almost every case, the players are the victims. That’s true here. These players didn’t deserve to have their teammate die. They didn’t deserve to experience “belittling, humiliation and embarrassment” or have food used as a weapon against them, if that part of the ESPN report is true (and it seems like it is). They signed up to play football, which already means they deserve more than they get.
4. DJ Durkin isn’t Maryland’s head coach right now, and it sure doesn’t seem like he will ever be again.
Maryland’s head football coach was placed on leave by the university less than 24 hours after ESPN’s reporting on the team. We haven’t heard from him since, though he’s assuredly been meeting with the people investigating the program.
5. Durkin has the support of some big Maryland boosters. It’s unclear how much that matters.
Rick Jaklitsch, a member of a high-ranking club of boosters, said this in an interview with The Baltimore Sun’s Don Markus this week:
“We want the Board to know what a gem they have in DJ Durkin. They can learn from people intimately involved with the football program that would never tolerate a toxic atmosphere and can absolutely vouch to the Board of Regents that this man cares about his players as much as he cares about his own kids. The goal of the Champions Club is to get DJ Durkin back as the Maryland football coach because of his character, because of his morals, because of everything he stands for is a positive to get the best out of these kids.”
Boosters have more access to the team than the rest of us do. They also aren’t part of the investigations into the program, and them saying they didn’t see something happen doesn’t mean that thing did not happen. Their money gives them a say in lots of decisions, but does it mean they get to decide what the school does or doesn’t consider to be acceptable behavior from its head football coach?
6. University president Wallace Loh and AD Damon Evans still have their jobs. What happens next with them remains to be seen.
While Durkin and already-ousted strength coach Rick Court are most clearly the ones who have explaining to do after ESPN’s reports, they aren’t the only ones. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh and athletic director Damon Evans have questions to answer.
Loh’s first public comments on McNair’s death didn’t come until a press conference on Aug. 14. Loh decided to keep Evans on after McNair’s death and after an investigation into an alleged improper relationship between Evans and a female staffer that ended, according to big-time Maryland donor Barry Gossett, with “no evidence found of anything that was substantial evidence.”
Evans is tied to Durkin somewhat because he served in a previous role in the athletic department where the football team was among his primary areas of concern, and because he was the interim athletic director when McNair died.
7. Maryland hasn’t permitted football players to speak to the media leading up to this game, so comments from interim HC Matt Canada are all we’ve got.
“We’ve been dealing with this for a couple months, and it’s been a very up-and-down situation,” Canada said. “We deal with grief differently—every player does, every person does, every family does. So we’re never going to be done with that, it’s not like it’s ever going to go away, and we’re not asking it to go away. When we do try to play football, as our players I think did a great job last week talking about how they want to honor Jordan. When our players play, they want to play well, they want to play well for each other, they want to play well for Jordan.”
Get more from Canada’s talks with the media this week here.
8. The players, who we said above should be the focus of any positivity you’re willing toward this team, will be playing football.
Here they are:
Yep, those are co-starters at QB, though we’re pretty sure Kasim Hill is the one who breaks the huddle on Maryland’s first drive.
Texas has players too. These are them:
9. I have no earthly clue what we’re about to see.
Maryland’s win over Texas was a very fun game to watch. In my brief time watching the Terrapins, it was easily the best game I’ve seen. That McNair’s death and the ongoing investigations into Maryland’s team are the backdrop of the rematch means it’s inherently going to be a lot less fun.
But there’s going to be a football game, and I’m going to watch it. Texas is going to come in undoubtedly better than it was when Tom Herman’s Longhorns made their debut last season. Maryland has healthy quarterbacks again to go along with a talented stable of running backs and a veteran offensive line. I don’t know how this offseason affects Maryland’s on-field play, and I don’t think that’s a question worth asking or answering right now.
Whatever happens on the field against Texas, though, try not to overreact.