Maryland head coach DJ Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans will keep their jobs in the wake of the scandal that rocked the football program following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, according to university president Wallace Loh.
Loh announced his retirement during the same press conference in which he confirmed Durkin and Evans are being retained. His retirement is effective in June 2019.
University System of Maryland Board of Regents chairman Jim Brady said the board recommended to university leadership that it retain Durkin as coach.
“We believe that Coach Durkin has been unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department,” Brady said during a press conference. “And while he shares some responsibility, it is not fair to place all of it at his feet.
“Coach Durkin was incredibly forthright with the board of regents during our meeting. … He has acknowledged his role in the athletic department’s shortcomings while he has served as head coach and he has committed to ensuring the proper reforms (are implemented).”
McNair’s family held a press conference later Tuesday and Martin McNair, Jordan’s father, didn’t mince words with his reaction to the decision.
“I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and someone spit in my face,” Martin McNair said.
The family’s attorneys read a statement calling the retention of Durkin “callous” and “indefensible.”
“As of today, the only person who has paid for those behaviors is Jordan McNair,” attorney Hassan Murphy said.
Martin McNair previously stated that Durkin “shouldn’t be able to work with anybody else’s kid.”
According to the Washington Post, the board of regents urged Loh to retain Durkin and Evans in a meeting on Friday. When Loh explained why the university needed to part ways with Durkin, the board reportedly made it clear it would move to immediately fire Loh if Durkin wasn’t kept as coach.
Durkin has been on administrative leave since Aug. 11. He reportedly met with the players on Tuesday — ESPN reported several players walked out of the meeting — and is hopeful of coaching the Terrapins against Michigan State on Saturday.
Evans was hired as athletic director in July.
Media reports have described a “toxic culture” in the football program under the current leadership, nearly all of which emerged since the details surrounding McNair’s death became public knowledge.
McNair collapsed during a May 29 practice, displayed symptoms of heatstroke and didn’t receive proper treatment from athletic staffers. He died June 13.
Two independent investigations uncovered abuse and bullying in the football program in which players feared retaliation if they spoke up.
One of the reports determined that there was a delay of 34 minutes between when the 19-year-old McNair started cramping during the workout and when he was taken off the field. A 911 call was placed 67 minutes after the onset of symptoms. Then, 32 minutes later, McNair was taken in an ambulance to the hospital.
“How can a student-athlete be called a p—y as he is in the early stages of death, dying before their eyes, with no action taken, and yet no one be held accountable?” Murphy said. “The university had an obligation to keep its students safe, and it failed.”
Despite the investigations, the 17-member board of regents decided that Durkin should be retained. According to the Washington Post, many of the regents changed their minds to being in favor of his return in recent days.
Maryland conditioning coach Rick Court resigned in August with a reported settlement of $315,000 as the scandal intensified.
When the more recent independent investigation concluded, a report to the board of regents suggested that the actions of Durkin and Court are typical of football programs all around the country.
“If the culture had been ‘malicious or harmful,’ Mr. Durkin would not have earned the loyalty and respect of many of his student-athletes and coaches,” the report stated. “Many players interviewed by the Commission felt Mr. Durkin’s and Mr. Court’s coaching tactics reflected those of a ‘big time football program.’ ”
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been serving as interim coach. The Terrapins are 5-3, including 3-2 in Big Ten play.
“I think our players are focused on each other,” Canada said during a Tuesday press conference in which he deflected questions about Durkin’s return. “I’ve said that a lot, and I really mean that. We have really closed off our room and said it’s about us. That’s not being disrespectful. The fans that are there, we appreciate. The people who are supporting our players, we appreciate. We’re not getting into that. We can’t control that.”
–Field Level Media