Maryland ‘accepts legal and moral responsibility for mistakes’ that led to Jordan McNair’s death

13 Comments

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.

A&M AD Scott Woodward officially named to same post at LSU

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The beloved Ed Orgeron notwithstanding, you can officially fire up the Jimbo-back-to-the-bayou rumor mill.

Wednesday evening, LSU confirmed that Joe Alleva would be “transitioning” from his role as athletic director to that of special assistant to the president for donor relations.  Almost immediately, speculation centered on Texas A&M’s Scott Woodward as a potential, or even likely, replacement; Thursday morning, the university announced that Woodward would indeed succeed Alleva as athletic director.

“We are happy to welcome a fellow Tiger back home,” said LSU president F. King Alexander in a statement. “Scott brings a strong track record of winning championships, graduating student-athletes and building an infrastructure for future achievement. His leadership will take us into a new era for Tiger Athletics.”

Woodward graduated from LSU and served as director of external affairs at his alma mater from 2000-04, a tenure that in part coincided with Jimbo Fisher‘s seven-year run as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the football Tigers.  In December of 2017, Woodward hired Fisher as the Aggies’ head football coach.

The most interesting aspect fo the Woodward-Fisher dynamic? Fisher’s contract with A&M contains no buyout, which means he could leave College Station for another job and not owe a single copper Lincoln to the university.

Woodward, who spent the past four years at A&M, will be formally introduced at a press conference next Tuesday.

“Returning home to the LSU family to lead the department of athletics is incredibly humbling and exciting,” Woodward said. “The state university has been a part of my life for more than five decades, and I know – and I embrace – the high expectations of Tiger Nation. We will win championships and we will do it the right way, representing LSU with pride and dignity every step of the way. I want to thank President Alexander for the opportunity of a lifetime and I cannot wait to get started. Geaux Tigers!”

 

Texas Tech adds two more grad transfers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been a busy last few days, both incoming and outgoing, for Texas Tech and new head football coach Matt Wells on the transfer front.

Tuesday, quarterback McLane Carter announced that he has decided to take his leave of Lubbock and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  The same day, however, Tech confirmed the addition of Penn State graduate transfer defensive back Zech McPhearson.

A day later, the roster Christmas continued for Wells as Tech announced that they have added two more graduate transfers — linebacker Evan Rambo of Cal and running back Armand Shyne of Utah.  As is the case with McPhearson, Rambo and Shyne will be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

McPhearson will have two years of eligibility remaining counting this season, Shyne one.  If Rambo’s appeal to the NCAA for a sixth season is successful — he missed all but four games in 2016 because of a season-ending injury before missing all of 2017 with an injury sustained in the spring — he’ll have two as well.

This past season, Shyne’s 513 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground were both second on the Utes.  Shyne will finish his time in Salt Lake City with 885 yards and nine touchdowns on 198 carries.

Rambo played in 22 games during his stint with the Golden Bears, starting five of those contests.

WR Brandon Benson tweets decision to transfer from SMU

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Back in January, it was reported that Brandon Benson had become one of the myriad players to place their names into the NCAA transfer database this offseason, signaling a potential move on from SMU. A couple of months later, the wide receiver has made the divorce official.

Utilizing his personal Twitter account, Benson announced in a tweet that, “after praying and talking to my family, I have decided to transfer from SMU to continue my football and academic careers.”

A three-star 2016 signee, only two members of the Mustangs’ class that year were rated higher than Benson. Despite that pedigree, Benson played in just 10 games (one start) in his three seasons with the AAC school, catching one pass for 72 yards and a touchdown. That scoring play came as a redshirt freshman in 2017 against FCS Stephen F. Austin.

Syracuse and Pitt add future home-and-home games with Western Michigan

Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Any time a MAC program can land a home-and-home deal with a program from a power conference is considered a nice victory. To be able to land two is even better.

Western Michigan has done just that with the addition of two home-and-home series with ACC members Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The addition of two games with Syracuse is a continuation of a current arrangement between the two schools while the games with Pitt are new to the schedule.

Western Michigan will host Syracuse on September 26, 2020 and the Broncos will pay a visit to the Orange on September 9, 2023. Pittsburgh will host the MAC program on September 18, 2021 and the Panthers will visit Western Michigan on September 17, 2022.

As members of the ACC, both Syracuse and Pittsburgh are required to schedule at least one non-conference game against another power conference opponent. Western Michigan does not satisfy that scheduling requirement but each school has the requirement satisfied in the years with their Western Michigan games. Pitt is scheduled to play at Tennessee in 2021 and will host West Virginia and Tennessee in 2022. Syracuse is set to play at Rutgers in 2020 and will play at Purdue in 2023.

Western Michigan has plenty of power conference opponents on the future schedules in addition to the home-and-home deals with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, but the other games currently scheduled are all road games. Western Michigan will play at Michigan State this year (they also play at Syracuse in their original scheduling agreement). Future road games against power conference opponents include Notre Dame (2020), Michigan (2021), Michigan State (2022, 2025), Iowa (2023), Illinois (2025), and Wisconsin (2026).