Maryland football is 2-0 after a win over Bowling Green with an 0-2 Temple team coming to College Park this weekend. But the Terps’ start to the season shouldn’t pull our attention completely away from the investigations into the program following Jordan McNair’s death.
This week or next week could be big in terms of getting some answers.
The investigation into the program’s training and conditioning practices has been expected to conclude on Sept. 15. Using “has been” here because we haven’t received an update on that investigation since the University of Maryland System Board of Regents took it over last month. Athletic director Damon Evans said in an interview with Maryland’s school propaganda machine that he’s “not sure” when the Walters report will be released.
There’s also the fact that the report is due back on a Saturday when Maryland’s playing football. It appears highly unlikely the school would unveil the report’s findings on the same day the football team plays, but it could mean the report’s findings are released early next week.
University president Wallace Loh announced an investigation into the larger culture of Maryland football on Aug. 14. That investigation has also been taken over by the Board of Regents.
That’s far from the only uncertainty here.
Two big ESPN stories released on Aug. 10 detailed comments from former Maryland staff members and players, and two current players who described a program led by DJ Durkin and policed by strength coach Rick Court as the following:
-There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. In one example, a player holding a meal while in a meeting had the meal slapped out of his hands in front of the team. At other times, small weights and other objects were thrown in the direction of players when [strength coach Rick] Court was angry.
-The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. In one example, a player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars as he was made to watch teammates working out.
-Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. Players are routinely the targets of obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity when they are unable to complete a workout or weight lift, for example. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.
-Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively; for example, a player said he was forced to overeat or eat to the point of vomiting.
A few Maryland players past and present who’ve gone on the record mostly dispute this account.
Durkin was placed on leave the day after those ESPN reports were published. His job hangs in the balance while these investigations go on.
And there hasn’t been much news in this department during the past few weeks, so here’s a quick rundown of what we expect to find out and what we don’t know.
1. Will the investigations point a finger at a person or group of people as responsible for Jordan McNair’s death?
President Wallace Loh already said school “accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May the 29th, which of course led subsequently to his death on June 13.”
The school has placed head football trainer Wes Robinson and director of athletic training Steve Nordwall on leave after the ESPN reports. Court and the school have parted ways. But there’s likely more to follow. Will the blame only be cast upon the training staff, or will it extend beyond?
2. What will the conclusions mean for DJ Durkin?
“I take very seriously the allegations reported in the media about the culture of our football program, citing instances of alleged intimidation and humiliation as ways to ‘toughen up’ players,” Loh said when announcing the additional investigation into the program, since taken over by the Board of Regents. “I am also mindful of other published reports in which some Maryland football players disagree with this portrayal of the program.”
The Board called the allegations in the ESPN report “alarming.”
It would seem unlikely Durkin returns to his post at Maryland, almost no matter what the investigations into the program find. But it’s technically possible. As is the university system firing him for cause. What appears more likely is Maryland and Durkin settling and the coach not returning.
3. What will they mean for Wallace Loh and Damon Evans?
Maryland’s president and AD have largely been out of the spotlight since their press conference almost a month ago. They still have questions to answer. Evans is tied closely to the football program, and Loh decided to promote Evans to the full-time AD gig after McNair’s death.
4. Will the conclusions from both investigations be released at the same time?
This seems reasonable, since the University System is in control of both investigations. But it now appears possible that the Walters investigation concludes before the school’s larger investigation, which would mean that we could be waiting while that larger investigation continues. That’s why the headline of this story says “should come back soon.” We figure we’ll get some answers soon, but the exact date still isn’t clear.
5. We’re not sure exactly what the release of the findings will look like, but a recent example provides one possibility.
Urban Meyer’s suspension announcement at Ohio State could provide a glimpse at what we’ll see at Maryland, at least in a few ways. The school found out the findings from the investigation into Meyer and others on Sunday night before eventually announcing Meyer’s suspension on Wednesday night. They also released extensive documents detailing the findings of the investigation, though, and this ended up being crucial, the document release came after the press conference held with the school president, AD and Meyer.
If the school ends up parting with Durkin, that news would probably leak before any press conference held by the school. It also would appear unlikely that the school would have quite the public spectacle that we saw in Columbus, with local and national media camped out on Ohio State’s campus for hours waiting for the school and Meyer to finish talking before holding the presser.
Or, it could have zero in common with what happened at Ohio State. There’s just so much we don’t know.