It’s been a tragic several months for the University of Maryland football program. On May 29th, offensive lineman Jordan McNair was hospitalized after a team workout. Two weeks later, he died of a heat stroke. In August, Maryland suspended head football coach DJ Durkin indefinitely. The university put the football program under an external investigation soon after. Reports emerged of a “toxic culture” and negligence to McNair’s condition, and people called for Durkin’s job. On October 30th, the Maryland Board of Regents announced their recommendation: Durkin be reinstated. And so he was . . . for one day. The very next day, the University announced Durkin would be fired from his job.
Here's the sequence of events that led to Maryland firing DJ Durkin. pic.twitter.com/EfY6TRMiv3
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 1, 2018
An Embattled Coach
DJ Durkin, a former defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines, was the head coach for the Maryland Terrapins for two seasons. In those two seasons he went 6-7 and 4-8, and raised the recruiting profile of the school. None of it would be worth it.
The external investigation by Maryland discovered that Durkin and his staff were very negligent towards player health, conditioning, and overall safety. The investigation also concluded that if Durkin’s staff aggressively treated McNair’s symptoms, then the 19 year-old may be alive today. McNair did not get that treatment. He will never get a chance to practice again.
The external investigation came to the conclusion that the University of Maryland and the coaching staff had some level of culpability to the death of McNair. McNair’s parents, among others, called for Durkin to be fired. When Durkin was reinstated, Jordan McNair’s father, Marty, said ““I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and somebody spit in my face.”
Justice for McNair
As soon as the reinstatement went public, outrage ensued. The Governor of Maryland himself put out a statement calling for the university to “reconsider their decisions.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, in a statement, just called on the U-Md. Board of Regents and school president Wallace Loh "to reconsider their decisions" w/r/t DJ Durkin and the football program. pic.twitter.com/L86cEbkD8S
— Steven Shepard (@POLITICO_Steve) October 31, 2018
Maryland’s student body also reacted in kind. Protests began immediately. Student Body President Jonathan Allen supported the students and stated so publicly. He said he would introduce emergency legislation to request University President Wallace Loh to fire DJ Durkin. “For Jordan, and for his family, there needs to be some justice,” Allen said.
Those feelings permeated not only through the campus, but into the locker room. When Durkin met with the team, that several players walked out of the meeting, reportedly. The tension was at a high.
Ultimately, Maryland reversed its decision and parted ways with Durkin. It took pressure from all sides to force the hand, but now the program can try and set itself on a road to recovery.
What Comes Next?
Maryland chose to fire Durkin without cause, meaning they did not find a violation of his contract to fire him over. Maryland will have to pay the termination clause in his contract, which is a hefty sum of approximately $5.1 million. Durkin can’t sue for breach of contract unless Maryland doesn’t pay the full sum of money, but there is a possibility he can sue for other reasons. Only time will tell if that will happen.
The Maryland Terrapins are 5-3 under interim head coach Matt Canada and will play the Michigan State Spartans on November 3rd at 12:00 P.M.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 1, 2018
The Terrapins dedicated the season for their fallen teammate, Jordan McNair. Their wins will honor him, but not as much as making sure no one loses their life like that ever again.