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Maryland enables DJ Durkin to go into administrative retirement for the venomous culture of the football program




Athletic Director of Maryland Damon Evans. (Astrid Riecken for the Washington Post)

The University of Maryland fired football coach DJ Durkin on Saturday, following news of players being abused and vilified by employees.

Athletic Director Damon Evans sent a letter to university staff, supporters and supporters on Saturday saying, "I am extremely concerned about the allegations of unacceptable behavior by members of our football team, as detailed in recent media reports Exploring the program thoroughly. "

" At this point in time, the best decision for our football program is to hire Maryland Head Football Coach DJ Durkin to validate the culture of the program, "the letter continues. Matt Canada will act as an interim head coach. "

Sports officials had previously announced on Friday night that several members of the athletics staff had been released on vacation, but declined to hire the staff to identify. In his letter, Evans did not mention Durkin, nor did he mention the future of the coach.

Durkin was present in the team practice on Saturday morning at College Park, as one person familiar with the situation knows. Evans was on hand and met with the team before training, said this person, although the nature of the meeting was not immediately clear.

Several people familiar with the situation confirmed that Rick Court, the team's strength and conditioning coach, and Athletic Trainer Wes Robinson were on vacation from the athletics department. ESPN reported on Saturday that a third employee, Steve Nordwall, a deputy athletics director for training, was also on leave.

School officials have repeatedly said that they are following an external review of the death of footballer Jordan McNair. The 19-year-old died on 13 June after suffering a heat stroke in a team training session on May 29. A family lawyer said a lawsuit is likely.

The school has entered into a contract with Walters Inc., a sports training consultancy. Review the circumstances surrounding McNair's death. While this review should not be completed before September 15, the school was under increasing pressure to respond quickly after news reports described a toxic football culture in College Park that included regular cases of bullying, denigration, and verbal abuse and emotional abuse.

"There was just a constant humiliation of the players," said a former Post employee on Friday night, "and that was the culture they brought into the program, and they thought it would make us tougher." ESPN released a detailed report Friday night citing current and former players and collaborators describing a "fear and humiliation-based environment". In his letter on Saturday morning, Evans called the allegations "disturbing," but did not refute everything specifically in the report. Evans took over in June, the top post of the athletics department, after he worked as an athletics director since November interim.

The Terps Football Program was eager to release the ESPN report, closed the Friday practice to reporters and sent a letter to parents of Maryland players, signed by Durkin. The coach told the parents, "Our priority is safety every day along with the academic, personal and athletic development of your sons," said the Baltimore Sun. "During this time of healing, our focus must be on each other and on unity in our program."

The reaction was quick and loud as the news began to spread. Ben Jealous, the Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland, called on the school to suspend both Evans and Durkin to the conclusions of the external investigation.

"The athletics director and the head coach are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of our student athletes," he said in a statement on Saturday afternoon. "There are reports of deliberately insecure conditioning practices based on verbal abuse, fear and humiliation, even after the death of a teenager in their care."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan The bureau issued a statement on Saturday calling the revelations about the football program "very disturbing reports."

"Our administration is in contact with the university system and we requested regular updates," said Amelia Chasse, spokeswoman for the governor. "We will closely monitor the investigation and the results to ensure that all appropriate action is taken, and no student athlete should ever feel insecure or unsupported."

School administrators did not address Durkin's status with the team, although he continued practiced. Maryland delegate Brooke Lierman, a civil rights lawyer from Baltimore, has called for the coaches' resignation, saying that university administrators need to act swiftly to suspend those involved.

"I am outraged that this outrageous coaching behavior has existed long and that has led to the death of a young man," she said in an interview. "The lack of oversight is incredibly disturbing, and it's unbelievably worrying that this was allowed to stay that way and that all coaches think this behavior is acceptable."

"Many people must have known this was so," she continued , "That kind of behavior has no place in any Maryland educational institution."

A high-level amp near the sports department that spoke under conditions of anonymity said on Saturday that "many donors think Durkin must go" and that there is increasing pressure on Evans to fire Durkin. Other alumni believe McNair's independent investigation into the death must also thoroughly investigate allegations of toxic culture within the program.

"Whenever a player dies, you really have to get to the bottom of it," said Tom McMillen, the former Terps basketball star who served three terms in Congress. "Hopefully it was an anomaly and the whole story is a guess, but you have to look at it closely, that's the world we live in."

"Of the [athletic directors] I've talked to, that's not omnipresent, "he said. Football is a tough game as a former athlete we all had tough coaches, but I think we need to look at what the facts are. "

The allegations of an abusive culture have provoked mixed reactions in some corners of the dense football world. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, who trained alongside Durkin at the University of Florida, interviewed the anonymous sources quoted in the news and called them "gutless."

"I know DJ Durkin," he told South Carolina reporters on Saturday. "He has been working for me for four years at the University of Florida, he's a great football coach, he's also an excellent husband and father, he treats people with respect … I know DJ Durkin personally, I know what a man he is, I know what kind of person he is, I do not think it's right. "

Some members of the escalating Terps community defended the program in the aftermath of critical reports. Barry Gossett, the celebrity booster whose name is on the team's football field, is close to the program, saying he does not jump-start hopeful fans and alumni: "This is not the DJ I know he does makes. "

" From a donor perspective, I'm somehow behind DJ and his program and what he has done, "said Gossett in an interview on Saturday. "I'm sure there have been instances where the children have benefited from his guardianship, as have the other coaches, but on the other hand, there's probably a couple that's disenchanted with any rules and regulations that make them something

Former Maryland player Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil said that none of the bullying and devaluation described in the media reports would have been acceptable if he served on the board of directors Teams would have served.

"Very sad, what's going on in Maryland, condolences to his family," tweeted the former Terps linebacker, who was under his former head coach Randy Edsall played. "I do not believe these reports reflect the 'culture' in Maryland, we have always treated and treated our program with respect and pride."

While the team was preparing for the new season on September 1 against Texas begins, the fallout continued on Saturday afternoon. Parker Moorer, an offensive three-star lineman from North Carolina, was released the following year from the obligation to join the team.

"After much deliberation and prayer, I have decided to dismiss the University of Maryland and will open my recruitment." Unlike most football programs in the country, Maryland has not opened any of its reporter practices this month. It has largely shielded players and coaches from publicly discussing the events surrounding McNair's death or the state of the contested football program.

"Everyone's at a different stage of a bereavement process and we're in a team," Durkin said the Big Ten Network Friday, his only interview since the beginning of the exercises. "Well, the one thing we did here at the camp and we said it and we did it, we'll talk about it, it's alright to talk about it, we will not just ignore it and pretend We'll talk about it. "

Durkin, 40, is in his first two seasons 10-15 years in front of the camera. Most recently, he had asked questions from a group of reporters at the Big Ten Media Day on July 24: "The loss of Jordan has been a huge difficulty for our entire program to handle this summer."

"There are things we immediately got up to and looked at," Durkin told reporters at the time. "And then, obviously, through our external review, there will be long-term things that we will continue to adapt to and adapt to."

He did not mention any specific collaborators, but reports in ESPN and The Washington Post of the behavior and actions of Court, the strength and conditioning coach, who was brought on board by Durkin in 2015. Court, who did not respond to a request for comment, was one of Durkin's first staffers in Maryland and directs the staff overseeing the training. That led to McNair's hospitalization. A former Maryland football player told The Post that "Court has always cursed and shouted people names."

"That was just Rick, it was all he did," said the player.

Court first trained Durkin on Urban Meyer's staff at Bowling Green in the early 2000s. He later served on Meyer's staff near Ohio State before working as a strength coach in Mississippi State, where he left in 2015 to meet Durkin at College Park. He was Durkin's first job in Maryland. In a story from 2017, Durkin told The Post, "If the head coach and the strength coach are not completely in line, I'll miss something." "I and Rick are lining up."

Robinson has been head coach of Maryland since 2006 was one of the few survivors to join Durkin's team after Edsall took office in October 2015. Northwall arrived in 2014 in Maryland. The director of the School for Athletic Training and oversees health services for more than 500 athletes in 20 sports at the school, according to his biography on the website of the Athletic Department.

Jesse Dougherty contributed to this report.


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