On Wednesday evening, just over 24 hours after President William Loh and the Maryland Board of Regents announced that head football coach DJ Durkin would be reinstated following a two-month paid suspension stemming from the death of football player Jordan McNair, the beleaguered football coach was fired.
This decision comes after a day full of backlash in College Park — Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Gov. Larry Hogan (R), the University of Maryland Student Government Association, and UMD football players, students, and alumni all strongly criticized the board’s move on Tuesday to reinstate both Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans.
“The University of Maryland athletic staff failed Jordan McNair, and on Tuesday, the USM Board of Regents failed him again,” Brown said in a statement. “They did not treat Jordan McNair like a person. They did not treat Jordan like someone’s child. They did not treat Jordan like the high-achieving young person who was worthy of being nurtured and developed into the accomplished man he could have become.”
Durkin was placed on paid administrative leave in early August, nearly two months after McNair, a 19-year-old offensive lineman, died. McNair suffered exertional heatstroke on May 29 during a strength and conditioning practice with the football team. He was rushed to the hospital over an hour and a half after first suffering symptoms, and remained there until he died 15 days later.
Had the Maryland training staff properly treated McNair, he would likely be alive today.
McNair’s father was particularly upset about Maryland’s decision to reinstate Durkin on Tuesday. “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and somebody spit in my face,” Marty McNair told reporters.
He was not alone in feeling betrayed by the institution. Three players reportedly walked out of Durkin’s first team meeting after being reinstated, and many players took to social media to express their outrage.
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
In August, Loh announced that the school took “legal and moral responsibility” for McNair’s death. A report released in September laid out the numerous mistakes made by Maryland officials on May 29, culminating in McNair’s death. Another report released last week detailed a toxic culture within Maryland’s football program and athletic department at large, which Durkin enabled.
Therefore, the board of regents’ announcement on Tuesday that returning Durkin to the sidelines was their “highest priority” sparked a level of outrage the school was not expecting.
To be clear, the decision to part ways with DJ Durkin came from College Park, including Wallace Loh and Damon Evans. The board of regents obviously recommended the university do the exact opposite. The backlash, including the governor’s comments, were loud and overwhelming today
— Rick Maese (@RickMaese) October 31, 2018
Loh reportedly wanted to fire Durkin all along, but refrained from doing so initially due to pressure from the board. However, he did announce on Tuesday that he would retire at the end of this school year.
According to Rick Maese of the Washington Post, the decision to fire Durkin ultimately came from Loh and athletic director Damon Evans.