COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland Athletics Department announced on Aug. 11 that Head Football Coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave as officials began an investigation on coaches’ conduct and training methods towards players on a routine basis. The announcement of Durkins’ leave status came down one day after a report ESPN […]
COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland Athletics Department announced on Aug. 11 that Head Football Coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave as officials began an investigation on coaches’ conduct and training methods towards players on a routine basis.
The announcement of Durkins’ leave status came down one day after a report ESPN alleged that team coaches were physically and verbally abusive towards players, creating a toxic environment around the team.
“I am extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports,” Athletic Director Damon Evans said in a letter to the Maryland Community. “At this time, the best decision for our football program is to place (Durkin) on leave so we can properly review the culture of the program.”
The report details of belittling behavior by the Maryland football coaching staff, with the focus on Rick Court, the team’s head strength and conditioning coach. Court, who was one of Durkin’s first hires in December 2015, was alleged to have thrown weights at players when angry, being verbally abusive and humiliated them publicly in team meetings.
Also, the report provides details during the workouts on May 28 that caused offensive lineman Jordan McNair to collapse and was sent to the hospital.
McNair was having problems completing 110-yard sprints as his body reached a temperature of 104 degrees. Players were reportedly told by Head Football Athletic Trainer Wes Robinson to “Drag his ass across the field!” McNair died on June 13 from a heatstroke, his family said on their foundation’s website.
“Jordan was a special member of our team,” Durkin said on Big Ten Football Media Day on July 24. “He had a unique way about him that was infectious to his teammates. He was loved by everyone, and we have a team that is working through the grieving process together. That’s been the focus with our guys is to be there for one another, both as student-athletes as well as staff and coaches involved.”
Before announcing Durkin’s status, ESPN reported earlier in the day that the athletic department placed two members of the coaching staff mentioned in the report, as well as Director of Athletic Training Steve Nordwall, on paid administrative leave.
Following the announcements, University President Wallace Loh addressed the controversy via a statement, calling the alleged actions to be opposite of the University’s core values and that it “will not be tolerated.”
“The University of Maryland is committed to a football program that is safe and humane, and where our student-athletes are successful in their academic and athletic endeavors,” Loh said. “This commitment will be carried out with accountability, fairness, and transparency.”
Reactions towards the report varied in and out of the college sports world. South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp announced his support of Durkin during a press conference while calling the use of anonymous sources “gutless” and “a lack of journalistic integrity.”
Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement that he supports the University’s decision to place Durkin and members of the coaching staff on leave until the investigation is completed.
Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee for Hogan’s position, agreed with his political adversary on the University’s response but said via Twitter that Evans and Durkin should have been suspended.
The fallout swiftly impacted the team’s future as well as high school offensive lineman Parker Moorer recently decommitted from the school. The six-foot-five, 265-pounder from Charlotte, North Carolina had committed on April 23 and is a three-star recruit by 247Sports.
Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada will serve as the team’s interim coach. Canada was hired in January after serving the same role in LSU for the 2017 season.
Durkin was preparing for his third season at the helm at Maryland after finishing last year with a 4-8 record. The Terrapins play their first game against Texas on Sept. 1 at FedEx Field.