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Maryland suspends trainers, strength coach after report details ‘toxic’ culture under D.J. Durkin

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Ohio State is not the only Big Ten school dealing with a growing scandal on the eve of the season as some serious allegations at Maryland are poised to rock the Terps football program.

Sources told ESPN that the school has placed athletic trainers Wes Robinson and Steve Nordwall, as well as assistant athletics director for sports performance  Rick Court on administrative leave late Friday as the school continues to look into the tragic death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair following a late May workout. It is not coincidence that the Terps waited this long to suspend the trio as ESPN released two detailed reports shortly before on Friday evening, one detailing physical signs McNair was showing before he collapsed and another, much broader, look into what was described as a “toxic” culture that Court and head coach D.J. Durkin have installed in College Park.

“There were multiple people that said, ‘Wow, Jordan looks f—ed up, he doesn’t look all right,'” one anonymous player said of the May workout in question. “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.”

McNair died nearly two weeks after collapsing as the result of what the family said was heatstroke following a workout that included several 110-yard sprints the team was put through.

Just as critical for the program were additional allegations regarding the culture at Maryland that have been established the past few years under Durkin and his top lieutenant in the strength and conditioning program in Court. Per ESPN this included:

  • 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 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.

Perhaps the most damning statement that the report included was this quote from a former Terps staff member: “I would never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there.” There were also several current or former players who spoke about the conditions under Durkin in the report as well and none paint a flattering picture.

It’s unclear as to what the next steps are for the team and the program. Durkin remains in charge pending further investigation with fall camp already under way and the season opener against Texas fast-approaching on September 1st. Athletic director Damon Evans, who was elevated from an interim role in late June and who has overseen the department while all this has gone on, could also have his job in jeopardy depending on the outcome of the investigation.

There’s no timetable for how long it will take to sort everything out and get to the bottom of things but needless to say, the Terps will need to be prepared to answer a lot more questions over the coming weeks and months.

Illinois LB Joseph Thompson enters the transfer portal

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Illinois has been on the right side of the football portal throughout the offseason.  Now, Lovie Smith‘s crew finds themselves on the wrong end.

First reported by Rivals.com, Joseph Thompson has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed that the defensive back is intent on leaving the Illinois football program.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Thompson was a three-star member of the Illinois football Class of 2019.  The Chicago native was rated as the No. 27 recruit regardless of position in the state of Illinois.  As a true freshman, Thompson didn’t appear in any games and took a redshirt.

On the positive side for the Illini? Illinois has added seven transfers to its football roster this offseason.  Five of those have come from Power Five programs.

In mid-March, ex-Alabama linebacker Christian Bell tweeted that he was moving on to the Illini. Shortly thereafter, we noted that an FCS All-American offensive lineman had opted to transfer into the Illinois football program. New Mexico State wide receiver Desmond Dan did the same.  As did Miami wide receiver Brian Hightower.  And Mississippi State offensive lineman Brevyn Jones as well in early May  And Louisville defensive back TreSean Smith last week mid-May.  And Cal defensive tackle Chinedu Udeogu that same month.

Report: Oklahoma wants to move its 2020 opener up a week, to Aug. 29

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While seemingly everyone in the sport is looking to push games back, Oklahoma is actually looking to move its football opener up.

Oklahoma is currently scheduled to open the 2020 college football season at home in Norman against FCS Missouri State Sept. 5.  According to The Oklahoman, however, OU is looking to move that matchup up a week, to Aug. 29.  Reportedly, the FCS school is amenable to such a move.

The reasoning behind such a waiver?

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione’s rationale in this pandemic-stricken year is that moving the opener would give OU an off week after each of its first two games, which could be valuable with the testing of players for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

With constant testing and the subsequent contact tracing for those exposed, teams face a season with frequent quarantines and isolation of players who either have the virus or have been exposed to it.

At the moment, Oklahoma is scheduled to face Tennessee at Memorial Stadium Sept. 12.  Then coming off a bye, OU would travel

All of this, of course, is contingent on there actually being non-conference games in the sport.  The Big Ten was the first conference-only scheduling domino to fall.  The ACC and Pac-12 are expected to follow suit.  The Sooners’ conference, the Big 12, likely won’t make a decision on that front until the end of this month.  The same goes for the SEC as well.

Five-star 2020 Georgia signee Broderick Jones reportedly injured in motor bike accident

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There’s a health concern involving one of the crown jewels of the Georgia football Class of 2020.

With Auburn in hot pursuit, Broderick Jones confirmed back in February that he had signed with Georgia football. The offensive lineman stated on National Signing Day he is “a Georgia boy” and “wanted to be close to home so my family could support me.“

Now, though, 247Sports.com is confirming that Jones suffered “a lower leg injury related to an accident involving a motor bike.” No details surrounding the accident have been revealed, although the website noted that it didn’t happen in the last couple of days.

It’s expected that Jones will be recovering for multiple weeks, perhaps up to two months. As of yet, the Georgia football program has not commented on the development.

The No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Georgia, the 6-5, 298-pound Jones is the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he’s listed as the No. 11 prospect overall in the Class of 2020.  Only one signee in this year’s class for the Bulldogs, cornerback Kelee Ringo, was rated higher.

While Jones verbally committed to UGA in April of 2018, the departure of line coach Sam Pittman for the head job at Arkansas in December caused some concern.  In January, Jones took an official visit to Arkansas.  He took another to Illinois that same month.

With the Bulldogs, the expectation is that Jones will slide into a starting job as a true freshman.  Provided there is a season, of course.

Florida State’s Mike Norvell to take 25% pay cut

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Less than a year into his job, the Florida State head football coach is the latest to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

This past week, FSU announced a series of cost-saving measures within the athletic department.  Included in that is Mike Norvell, the new Florida State football coach who will take a 25-percent cut in his salary for the fiscal year.  Other coaches for the Seminoles, including men’s and women’s basketball, will take 15-percent cuts.  Athletic director David Coburn will see his salary reduced by 20 percent.

Additionally, 25 full-time jobs within the athletic department are being eliminated.  Overall, that department’s budget will be slashed by 20 percent.

”I am personally heartbroken over the impact this pandemic has had on our employees, and I am disappointed I must give you this discouraging news today,” Coburn said in a portion of his statement. “However, I am sure you have seen that other athletic departments around the country  are also making reductions.”

On that front, the FSU athletic director is absolutely correct.

Below is a partial list of FBS programs that have initiated various cost-cutting measures for athletic department personnel, including coaches:

Additionally, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who reportedly made north of $5 million a year ago, is taking a 20% pay cut.  Scott’s Big 12 counterpart, Bob Bowlsby, announced pay cuts for himself and the conference’s staff.