COLLEGE PARK – The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents voted to take over two investigations regarding the culture surrounding the University of Maryland football team and its handling of the events leading to the death of former student-athlete Jordan McNair. The decision, unanimously approved on Aug. 17, comes days after Maryland removed […]
COLLEGE PARK – The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents voted to take over two investigations regarding the culture surrounding the University of Maryland football team and its handling of the events leading to the death of former student-athlete Jordan McNair.
The decision, unanimously approved on Aug. 17, comes days after Maryland removed Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Rick Court after allegations of misconduct and player abuse.
According to the press release, the votes took place during a special four-hour meeting and both investigation teams will report their findings to the USM. The Board also said that they had asked the state attorney general’s office to represent the university and USM on any legal claims surround McNair’s death.
“Our goal is to ensure that all system universities, including UMCP, are actively working to protect the health and safety of every student and to foster a supportive culture in which everyone can flourish,” USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady said.
The university has been marred with scandal since an ESPN report described a toxic culture surrounding the coaching staff and its players. The story, which was released on Aug. 10, also provided details about McNair, the workouts that caused him to collapse fatally and the team’s response.
On Aug. 14, University President Wallace Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans organized a last-minute press conference to announce preliminary findings in the investigation on what happened to McNair, who died on June 13.
Loh said that the athletic training staff “misdiagnosed” McNair’s situation and did not check his vital signs. Evans added that emergency response plans were not followed in a timely manner, including not taking his temperature, and no cold-water remedies were given to the six-foot-four, 325-pound offensive lineman. McNair would stay in the hospital until his death.
“The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that faithful workout day of May 29 which subsequently led to his death,” Loh said.
McNair’s family said on their foundation’s website that he died from a heat stroke. Evans and Loh said the final report on McNair’s death should be completed by mid-September and details will be shared first with his family before releasing it to the public.
“The university owes you an apology; you entrusted Jordan to our care, and he is never returning home again,” Loh said. “We have looked at the preliminary observations given to me and to others, and some of our policies and protocols do not conform to best practices.”
Regarding the players’ abuse reports, Evans said that after the article was released and he immediately had conversations with Court on the allegations. Court is alleged to have yelled explicit language towards players, embarrass them publicly and throwing small weights while they worked out when he was angry.
While Evans did not confirm if Court admitted to committing the actions, “it was best to put him on administrative leave.” Following the press conference, Yahoo Sports reported that Maryland had reached a financial settlement with Court for the remainder of his contract before announcing his departure from the program.
“After thoughtful reflection, prayer and support, I have offered my resignation to the University of Maryland,” Court said in a statement released on his personal Twitter account. “The football student-athletes’ mental and physical health remains my number one priority; thus, I am stepping down to allow the team to heal and move forward.”
Pressure continues to mount as Maryland tries to decide the future of Head Coach DJ Durkin, who continues to be on administrative leave with pay as the investigation continues. McNair’s parents have gone on multiple media outlets, asking for the firing of Durkin and that any settlement talks with the university would not resume until a decision had been made.
“What has been revealed to date demonstrates a lack of preparedness—leading to the tragic and preventable death of Jordan McNair—that is simply too inexcusable to maintain current leadership until more is known,” Democratic nominee for governor Ben Jealous said in a statement, who also stated that Evans should be suspended until the investigation is completed.
If he is also responsible for the events going on with the football program, Evans said he believes that he is the only one who can help the university “through these difficult times.” Evans was the interim AD until June 25, where he signed a six-year contract according to multiple reports.
“My plan moving forward is to make sure we evaluate that culture, those allegations on that culture and make sure the environment for our student-athletes is safe,” Evans said.
As Durkin is on leave, Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada is currently serving as the interim head coach. He has continued to hold practices and workouts ahead of the season opener against Texas at FedExField on Sept. 1.
“This is certainly a challenging situation,” Canada said. “And the focus of that is that we are still grieving for Jordan and that is what we are focused on as an entire program of 110 players and 60-70-80 more people who work with our players and for our players and we are all doing that. That is where we are right now.”