USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken on the allegations that head coach DJ Durkin created a toxic culture at Maryland that led to a player’s death.
USA TODAY Sports
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Preliminary findings from an independent investigation of the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair show medical personnel failed to immediately treat McNair for heatstroke when he fell ill during a supervised workout in May, Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“We have learned Jordan did not receive appropriate medical care, and mistakes were made by athletic training personnel,” Evans said.
Evans and university president Wallace D. Loh met with McNair’s parents earlier Tuesday, and Loh repeated to reporters what he told them: “The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May 29.”
Evans also announced that the school had “parted ways with” strength coach Rick Court as a result, and others on the training staff were put on leave. Another investigation will examine the conduct of head coach D.J. Durkin and his staff. Durkin, 40, was put on paid leave Saturday over allegations he allowed a toxic culture to persist in the football program.
“It will be an expedited, yet very careful review,” Loh said of the Durkin investigation.
McNair, 19, became ill during a supervised workout – where he performed 10, 110-meter sprints – and he died on June 13.
“Our athletic training staff did not take Jordan’s temperature and did not apply a cold water immersion treatment,” Evans said.
That lag in care – which included a lengthy delay before Maryland’s medical staff called 911 – has been criticized by sports medicine experts and the law firm representing McNair’s family.
The school announced at a news conference on June 14 that it had hired an outside firm to handle an investigation of the events surrounding McNair’s death. Rod Walters, a former college athletic trainer, was tasked to lead the investigation, which Evans said has led to changes to the way athletes are monitored for all sports.
“There are no words to say to Jordan’s parents that will be good enough,” said Evans, as he began to tear up. “I have looked into the eyes of a grieving mother and father, and there is simply nothing good enough. We will honor Jordan’s life, and we will ensure a tragedy such as this never happens on our campus again.”
Marty and Tonya McNair, Jordan McNair’s parents, said in a statement released by their lawyer that they “appreciate” Loh and Evans offering condolences and accepting the school’s responsibility in their son’s death.
“While Marty and Tonya will never get another day with Jordan, Dr. Loh’s words were meaningful to them and give them some comfort that he will put the University on the path to change the culture of the program so that no Terrapin family will have to endure the heartache and grief that they feel,” Hassan Murphy of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy said in the statement to USA TODAY Sports and other outlets.
Durkin, who is 11-15 in two years with Maryland, agreed in 2015 to a five-year deal worth $12.5 million. Loh and Evans each said that Durkin deserves “due process” when it came to allegations laid out in last week’s ESPN report on the program.
Court, the school’s former head strength coach, wrote on Twitter that he resigned on Monday “to allow the team to heal and move forward” and he “will continue to cooperate with the university’s investigations.”
“You can motivate people without engaging in bullying behavior,” Loh said. “These are allegations, but we have to take them very, very seriously. A fair process demands that we do a thorough investigation by an independent group, who will make recommendations. We will implement those recommendations.”
Loh said the four-member review panel will include two former federal judges (Ben Legg and Alex Williams) and former federal prosecutor Charles P. Scheeler, who served as the monitor to ensure that Penn State complied with agreements with the NCAA and Big Ten related to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. Loh didn’t name the fourth member, although he said he is a “respected, retired football coach.”