University of Maryland head football coach D.J. Durkin and Athletic Director Damon Evans were reinstated by the University’s Board of Regents today, according to ESPN. Durkin and Evans have been on paid administrative leave since August pending an investigation into the June death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair. McNair died from heatstroke that he suffered during a May 29th football practice.
Evans and Durkin met with the Maryland football team before practice with no other coaches present to inform them of the decision to reinstate them. Sources say that many players, including several starters, walked out of the meeting.
The decision was met with outrage by many outside of the program, including McNair’s parents. “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and somebody spit in my face,” said Jordan’s father Marty McNair.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a statement that questioned the University’s decision. “Many will understandably question whether enough has been done to address the serious concerns that exist among many in the College Park community,” he wrote. “I am one of them.”
An August report by ESPN detailed how Durkin’s program built a culture of fear and intimidation that would ultimately lead to McNair’s death, forcing the Maryland Board of Regents to suspend Durkin and launch an investigation into the allegations. The findings of the first investigation were published in late September and indicated that Maryland athletic trainers had not followed proper protocol and failed to treat McNair for symptoms of heatstroke.
Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate. Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right. pic.twitter.com/AaZVmLGTtS
— Ellis McKennie (@emck_cubed97) October 30, 2018
University President Wallace Loh publicly accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes the athletic trainers made, and since the summer has begun to implement a series of reforms to the athletic department which were cited in the investigation.
At the news conference to announce the Board of Regents’ decision following the investigation, University System of Maryland Board Chairman James T. Brady said, “We believe that Coach Durkin has been unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department. While he bears some responsibility, it is not fair to place all of it at his feet.”
Sources with knowledge of the process told ESPN that retaining Durkin as football coach was the board’s primary objective and that Loh was put in the unenviable position of retaining Durkin or risk losing his own job.
“The Board of Regents insisted that DJ return and this has been their highest priority,” the source told ESPN. “Some regents appeared to be obsessed with it. The problem is that they don’t have the authority to hire and fire DJ… they told Wallace Loh that they wanted him to bring DJ back, and the clear message was that if Loh was not willing to bring DJ back right away they would fire [Loh] immediately…”
Loh announced his plans to retire in the summer of 2019.
Hassan Murphy, the attorney for the McNair family, said “How can a student-athlete be called a (expletive) as he is in the early stages of death, dying before their eyes, with no action taken, and yet no one be held accountable? The University had an obligation to keep its students safe, and it failed.”
Murphy continued, “The only person who has paid for those failures is Jordan McNair.”