Because Maryland's administrators never miss a chance to raise fans' expectations, university president Wallace Loh sat with The Baltimore Sun's editorial board this fall and said the following about what he wanted in the Terps' next head football coach:
The personality to project themself well, vis a vis the boosters, vis a vis the media. You have to have an outsized personality here. It's not just knowing the X's and O's. That's why you have the Jim Harbaughs, the Urban Meyers.
In fact, Maryland's own division has both Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer. They're two of the 10 best coaches in college football, Harbaugh at Michigan and Meyer at Ohio State. Meyer might be the very best.
Maryland was never going to bag either one of them to replace Randy Edsall, but in hiring Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on Wednesday, it might've done the next-best thing, or at least the closest.
Maryland hires D.J. Durkin
Maryland has set Durkin up poorly public-relations-wise. In addition to Loh's earlier insinuation that he wanted Eagles coach Chip Kelly and leaks about ex-Georgia coach Mark Richt, athletic director Kevin Anderson said at a press conference after firing Edsall in October that he wanted someone who'd promote "wide-open offense" to rile up the fan base. Durkin, a career defensive coach, isn't that guy. Not by a long shot.
But Durkin does have the pedigree for a job of this caliber. He's gotten it from Meyer and Harbaugh, and from a bunch of coaches he's worked with in between.
Durkin's coaching career started as a Bowling Green graduate assistant in 2001. The Falcons' coach back then was Meyer, whose good work quickly netted him a promotion to head coach at Utah, then Florida and you know the rest. Bowling Green was 17-6 in Durkin and Meyer's two years together. He got it from three years at Stanford under Harbaugh, when the Cardinal began an ascent to being one of the sport's most consistent programs. Harbaugh thought enough of Durkin in Palo Alto to hire him as his defensive coordinator this year at Michigan. Durkin's Michigan defense was instantly one of the five best in the country.
Coaching careers can be winding, and Durkin's certainly has been. In addition to Meyer and Harbaugh, he's worked under fired Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham and total punchline Florida coach Will Muschamp.
But the point, here, is that Durkin's had anchors while he's been all over the map. He's coached for MAC defenses, Big Ten defenses, SEC defenses and Notre Dame defenses. He's had to recruit the Midwest, the South, the East, the West.
All the while, he's gotten the chance to learn lessons from Harbaugh and Meyer, and probably a bunch of other people. If you don't think Durkin is good enough for Maryland, that's fine. Maryland's athletic department gave you ample reason to expect more. But Durkin is good enough for Harbaugh and Meyer, and that, at root, is why he's being hired.