At an ofttimes emotional press conference Tuesday afternoon, officials from the University of Maryland, including president Wallace Loh and athletic director Damon Evans, addressed the ongoing investigation into the death of a Maryland football player this summer. At the press conference, which came after both Loh and Evans met with the player’s family Tuesday morning, the president stated that he told the family that the university “accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day.”
“They basically misdiagnosed the situation,” Loh said of the training staff. “No vital signs were not taken. Other safeguarding actions were not taken. For me, that’s enough for me to say I need to personally apologize to Jordan’s family.”
Most heartbreakingly, Loh acknowledged that McNair’s death could’ve been prevented.
The press conference came three days after head coach D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave and not long after the attorney representing the family of deceased Terrapins football player Jordan McNair called for Durkin’s dismissal.
Durkin’s leave stemmed from a damning report late last week in which it was alleged McNair was showing signs of distress before he collapsed during a workout in late May, dying a little over two weeks later of what his family described as heatstroke. That same report, which led to the suspensions of the training staff and strength & conditioning coach as well, also detailed a “toxic” culture within the football program under Durkin, one based on fear, intimidation, belittling, humiliation and embarrassment. Players were, allegedly, routinely subjected to what was described as extreme verbal abuse.
Perhaps the most noteworthy comments to come out of the presser, at least when it comes to Durkin’s future as head coach, is the fact that Loh made sure to place the onus for what was described as a misdiagnosed situation on the athletic training staff, not the coaching staff. It had previously been confirmed that Durkin was in attendance at the workout in which McNair collapsed.
At the press conference, it was also confirmed that head strength & conditioning Rick Court is no longer with the team. It was subsequently learned that Court resigned after reaching a financial settlement with the university.
Additionally, a four-person committee has been formed by Loh to address the reports of a toxic culture within the football program. That committee’s findings will likely determine whether or not Durkin returns as the head coach.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada was named interim head coach when Durkin was placed on leave; Canada will continue on in that role as long as Durkin remains away from his team. Canada spent one rocky season as the coordinator at LSU before the pair’s divorce was made final in early January.
Durkin, who came to Maryland in December of 2015 after one season as the defensive coordinator at Michigan, spent the past two seasons with the Terrapins. In that span, the Terps went 10-15 overall and 5-13 in Big Ten play, with finishes of fifth (2016) and sixth (2017) in the conference’s East division. This past season, UM went 4-8 and carried a 2-7 record in league play into the offseason.
Billy Murphy, the McNair family’s attorney, stated earlier this month that his law firm is “leaning” toward filing a civil lawsuit in federal court, but will wait until the university wraps up its investigation before choosing a course of action. That investigation is expected to be completed by the middle of September.