After Jordan McNair died following his collapse at a Maryland football practice, the university commissioned Rod Walters, a former SEC trainer and head of Walters Inc., a sports medicine group, to investigate the “practices and procedures” that led to McNair’s death.
You can read that full 74-page report here.
Walters took the podium to answer questions along with University System of Maryland Board of Regents chair James Brady following the release of the report on Friday, but that was mere moments after the report was released to the public. Now that we’ve had some time to go over it, here are the highlights:
1. There’s now an updated timeline of the workout in question, and an account of McNair’s whereabouts.
4:24 p.m. - Team flexibility and dynamic warmup
4:40 - Start of team testing
4:53 - Completed 7th rep - exhaustion and cramps reported
It was reported by strength coaches that Jordan McNair completed his first seven runs within his allotted time. Prior to the eighth repetition (16:53:00), he was reported by the Athletic Trainers as exhausted.
4:59 - Rep 10 by linemen
He was being cared for by the certified athletic trainers on the field who described cooling and hydration of the athlete.
The Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Training [Steve Nordwall] documented the incident in Presagia as follows: S: fatigue, back pain, back cramps 0: hyperventilation, profuse sweating, back cramps A: heat cramps, fatigue, hyperventilation. Possible seizure added as an addendum to his first note.
The Assistant Athletic Trainers reported: 1. Jordan did not mention cramps on the field. “I’m just tired.” 2. Dizziness. 3. No documented assessment
The Head Athletic Trainer noticed Jordan McNair being assisted by two Assistant Athletic Trainers. He yelled to them to continue him moving (to continue active recovery). The specific verbiage from the Head Football Athletic Trainer [Wes Robinson] could not be confirmed from interviews.
Trainers questioned McNair and “neither noticed any elevation in skin temperature, and denied any observation of increased skin temperature.”
Athletic Trainers notice Jordan was complaining of low back tightness and cramping. The Athletic Trainers described hyperventilation. He was encouraged to slow controlled breathing and walk around the field with active recovery. The athlete was walked toward the shed and was put on a treatment table with his legs elevated.
5:22 - McNair taken from field on Gator
McNair is reported as walking into Gossett Team House with his condition described as “back cramps” and “uncomfortable.”
5:26 - Entered Gossett athletic training room
McNair is placed on a large table “to attempt supine positioning with legs elevated.”
“When questioned about skin temperature, the Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Training [Steve Nordwall] denied noticing hot skin.”
5:50 - Mental status change - seizure
“He sat on the table, and the athletic trainers were providing oral hydration and cooling with ice/cold towels and suddenly demonstrated a drastic mood change” (McNair began yelling at trainers)
5:52 - Call to team physician Steve Nordwall
5:55 - Call to UMPD (911)
6:02 - 2nd call to UMPD (911) to advise of respiratory distress
6:03 - 1st ambulance arrives on scene
6:11 - 2nd ambulance positioned to field level
6:27 - Ambulance departs for Washington Adventist
6:36 - Ambulance arrives at Washington Adventist
2. There’s clarity on a few huge gaps in time.
- The time from onset of cramps to being removed from field was 34m 12s
- The time treated in athletic training room prior to change in stature was 23m 55s
- The time from 911 call to ambulance arriving at the parking lot in front of Gossett Team House was 8m 33s
- The time from the 911 call to departing the stadium was 37m 3s
- The onset of symptoms to the call to 911 was 1h 7m
- The time from onset of symptoms following the seventh repetition to departure in the ambulance en route to Washington Adventist was 1h 39m 3s.
3. Lack of updated protocols in some places and ignorance of those protocols in others contributed to Maryland not taking the proper steps in treating Jordan McNair.
Walters deemed that Maryland’s Emergency Action Plan “meets guidelines but staff failed to implement established best practices guidelines”:
The individuals involved in carrying out the EAP have been trained in automatic external defibrillation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, and prevention of disease transmission. There is no evidence or documentation of training and practice of the EAP. Specifically, when interviewing Assistant Strength Coaches on August 2, 2018, there was no recall of EAP training for their staff.
4. Specifically, there’s an explanation for why Jordan McNair was not put in cold tub.
The Head Football Athletic Trainer [Wes Robinson] was questioned about why the decision to not utilize the cold whirlpool to cool Jordan McNair following the change in status and seizure activity. He answered due to the concern of size of the student-athlete and the smaller stature of the athletic trainers providing care, there was fear of drowning. Cooling was attempted with cold towels and ice packs to the groin and axilla.
Placement in a cold tub is “the best practice” for treatment of heatstroke, and the failure not to do so because a player is too large would seem unacceptable.
5. Rod Walters and Co. interviewed four Maryland football players, and did not talk to them until August.
This is potentially notable for a few reasons. One, as outlined in ESPN’s report on the team’s culture in August:
Players had to return early from their time off to meet with investigators on Aug. 1, two days before the first preseason workout. A sign-up sheet was posted on the office door of Jason Baisden, the team’s assistant athletic director for football operations and equipment. Meetings took place in the offensive staff’s meeting room in the Gossett Football Team House.
”They tried to interview players at the most inconvenient time, in Gossett, basically right in front of Durkin’s office,” one of the current players said.
”Basically anybody can walk by, any coach or whoever really wants to can walk by and see who signed up and see who’s talking to the investigation,” the other current player said. “They’re singling us out even more when it’s supposed to be an anonymous investigation.”
The team denied this account, and reportedly later moved sign-ups to another location.
Talking to four players when Maryland’s roster has over 100 is obviously disconcerting, to say the very least. Perhaps the player interviews were not central to the investigation, as Walters’ charge was to evaluate the team’s practices and protocols. But it’s worrisome, and now we have to hope the other group investigating the program’s culture talks to many more players than that. Especially given the alarming comments the four players interviewed here *did* have, anything less than a large number of players interviewed would seem to leave a crucial part of this story untold. Still, Walters and Co. cannot make players come forward. It was a voluntary process, so they only control so much.
Also much less than ideal is the fact that no players were interviewed until the beginning of August, about nine weeks after the workout in question.
5. Players seem to confirm at least parts of ESPN’s accounting of the events at the specific workout where McNair collapsed, among other things.
From ESPN story published on Aug. 11:
“There were multiple people that said, ‘Wow, Jordan looks f---ed up, he doesn’t look all right,’” the player said. “We knew he was really exhausted, but we didn’t know he was in danger of his life. But that doesn’t mean that a medical professional shouldn’t know to put him in an ice tub.”
Multiple sources said that after the 10th sprint finished, Wes Robinson, Maryland’s longtime head football trainer, yelled, “Drag his ass across the field!”
A second player at the workout told ESPN: “Jordan was obviously not in control of his body. He was flopping all around. There were two trainers on either side of him bearing a lot of weight. They interlocked their legs with his in order to keep him standing.”
One player interviewed in the Walters report:
• Scott and Billy* told by Wes to move him. Also reported Wes yelled across the field to “get him the ‘fuck’ up”.
• Concerned that day when this happened as the entire staff was on the field. All athletic trainers, strength and conditioning staff, and football coaches.
• Athlete was gassed after seventh repetition. He missed his last three times, and walked much of the way of the tenth repetition.
• West yelled at the interns to drag him across the field. He could barely stand but was “walked” back toward the drills. Two interns were intertwined with his legs trying to hold him up.
• The coaches preach a “no quit” mentality. No one wants to go to the Pit (area of practice for injured players administered by strength coaches). The Pit is no joke, and players avoid this at all costs.
•Team mottos are trim the fat, blind trust. The trust feels face** by the strength staff.
• Player trust with athletic training staff is not good. This scenario has obviously influenced how my teammates feel.
These details, especially the ones expressed by the final two players, would appear also to be pertinent in the other investigation into the program’s culture and player treatment.
*Scott and Billy are presumably athletic trainers Scott Wood and Billy Rodgers, as pointed out by The Diamondback’s Andy Kostka and James Crabtree-Hannigan.
**Unclear what “face” means here. Could mean “fake,” but that is of course just speculation.
6. DJ Durkin’s name is absent from the report.
Walters’ report avoids mentioning just about anyone by name. People are usually referred to just by titles, such as “Head Football Athletic Trainer.” Still, the phrase “head football coach” appears three times, all in the context of referring to who reports to whom.
As Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann notes, this is not necessarily a positive for Durkin. If it’s determined that the training staff was enforcing a culture he put into place when yelling to “drag his ass across the field,” that’d reflect quite poorly on the head coach, to say the least. McCann does also note, though, that the report does not directly state any link Durkin to any specific wrongdoing.
7. One parent expressed concerns about “pressure.”
One [interview] was from a parent expressing concern over the pressure her child had endured during time with the football team. Due to the nature of the interview (not heat related illness related), the information was taken and passed along to University General Counsel to pass along to the second commission being established to review the football program in general.
8. A student trainer had concerns about how injuries are handled.
The second interview was from an athletic training student expressing concern for the handling of a couple of student-athlete injuries and the intervention between the Head Football Athletic Trainer and the student.
The report doesn’t specifically mention that the information here was also passed along to the other commission, but given the fact that we now know about it, one would think that commission would know about it too.
9. Coaches were asked five questions with a narrow scope, but none said they saw McNair in the midst of a seizure.
1. Describe the field conditions on 5/29.
2. Did you see any players in distress during the conditioning run?
3. Was there concern by the staff for Jordan’s weight?
4. Do you know what a seizure is?
5. Did you witness a seizure in Jordan McNair on 5/29?
Their answers were summed up briefly:
An interview was conducted with Jordan’s position coach (August 1, 2018). He was new to the staff being hired in January 2018, and did not have significant contact with Jordan until after recruiting season was over. He was very impressed with Jordan as a student-athlete. His coach did comment it was not excessively hot or humid during the run.
Further interviews were conducted with all position coaches (August 12, 2018) to further get their impression of the weather conditions on May 29, 2018, what they saw on the field that day relative to student-athletes in peril, and any activity that was out of the ordinary for the staff. Coaches were also asked about their familiarity with seizure activity, and was any seizure activity seen by them while watching players condition on May 29, 2018. None of them saw any seizure activity in Jordan McNair.
10. Someone didn’t tell the truth about what happened that day when explaining the incident to the university administration.
From Walters’ observations at the end of the report:
Information reported to UMD attorney, athletic director, and senior administration two days post event was not representative of activity and care on the field May 29, 2018. Review of videos confirmed UMD administration’s concerns.
The people or person this is referring to does not appear to be clear.
11. Lastly: the report also lays out the timeline of ... the report.
- June 13 - Call to engage Walters Inc. - Consultant in sports medicine
- June 21 - Contract extended from University of Maryland
- June 28 - Call with university legal to get documents
- June 29 - Began document upload to secure site
- July 17 - Walters visit to establish timeline
- June 27 - Call with attorney general office rep, university chief of staff, university legal and senior athletic administration to address concerns
- Aug. 2 - Training to address concerns
- Aug. 17-18 - Follow-up visits to interview staff
- Sept. 6 - Follow-up visit/meet with Sheerley Commission
- Sept. 21 - Final report
Two things that immediately stick out here: The ESPN story and statements in the 74-page report say that investigators were in College Park to interview players around Aug. 2. That’s not included on the above timeline. “Sheeley Commission” would appear to be the name for the other investigation into the program, which includes former federal prosecutor Charles Sheeler.
That’s all we’ve got for now. More to come on this, obviously.