Maryland's soccer program has been a mess for years.
This is the simplest example from the 192-page investigation report released by a commission appointed by the school on Thursday. The commission examined the culture in DJ Durkin's program after the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair in June and a subsequent ESPN report that reshaped the program for a "toxic" culture.
The report reaches a strange conclusion, which he tries to support the dictionary – more on that later. It says that "Maryland's football team did not have a" toxic culture, "but there was a culture in which the problems festered because too many players feared to speak out."
Investigators do not believe that gamblers are afraid to say anything about their own safety issues as "extremely harsh, vicious or harmful". While this is one of the most insightful conclusions in the report, it also provides a detailed insight into how the program works.
The report does not endorse some of the worst allegations against the program, but it still paints an ugly picture of the program Durkin has run, as well as Rick Court's power and conditioning program, which stepped down after ESPN's report came out.
You can read the full report here. In the following we have filtered out important information.
The investigation found various cases of unconventional motivational tactics and punishments by both Court and Durkin.
- Graphical videos shown to players during the meal:
Several players anonymously complain that the coaching team subject teams to disturbing videos during mealtimes. According to Gus Little, this included videos of serial killers, drills that invade eyeballs, and bloody scenes with animals eating animals. Another player says that there are videos of Rams and Bucks running at full speed. Mr. Durkin claims that horror movies were sometimes shown at breakfast to motivate and entertain players.
The report goes on to mention that sometimes "motivational clips" such as Fast and Furious movie highlights were shown to the players at breakfast.
- A player was removed from a team meeting for a smile.
The report states that there was an "existing crack" between the player and Durkin who thought the player was not paying attention
- As a form of punishment, Court forced the players to use a pvc Pipe to train over her shoulders for an hour. The medical expert in the investigation concluded that this was "an appropriate exercise technique".
- Court allegedly also struck food from the hands of a player when it was told that the player did not finish before a team meeting:
Mr. Court then grabbed the box from the player's hand, threw it against the wall and addressed the entire group on the importance of punctuality, saying, "I've tried to set the tone for that day." Others say, Mr. Dish picked up the food from the player's hand on the floor.
Court stated that players were told to eat before the meeting.
- Several players told investigators that Court gave candy bars or snacks to overweight gamblers while others trained
There are varying reports about whether Mr. Court placed the candy bars on the player's lap, dropping them at his feet, she hurled at the player or poured a basket of it on the player and then forced the player to eat it while the rest of the team worked. Mr. Court says he threw a bag of candy at the player's feet. One player remembers that Mr. Court called the player "fat."
- ESPN's 2018 report claimed that a player had to eat until he vomited. A coach confirmed that a player had surrendered during a team meal, but it was unclear whether the player was forced to eat or whether he just ate and vomited.
- But as far as vomit is concerned:
During the training session, the player in question became ill and had to be handed over to the bin. Some sources, including former players Michal ("Gus") Little and E.J. Donahue claimed that Mr. Court had then pushed the player into a refrigerator in the gym and forced him to clean his own vomit from the garbage bin that Mr. Court had thrown over the weight room. Others say that Mr. Court simply threw the can against the wall without touching the player, and the spilled vomit was then cleaned by a co-worker.
- Court also passed a line of offensive speech towards the players, whether he believes or not.
This involved challenging the player's masculinity and flinging homophobic slurs (which Mr. Court denies but was repeated by many). In addition, Mr. Court would try to humiliate players in front of their teammates by throwing food, weights and even a bin of vomit, all behavior that is not reasonably acceptable. These actions failed because of the student athletes he allegedly served.
. 2 The entire athletic department of Maryland was deeply disturbed.
The report describes the intrigues of the palace between current sports director Damon Evans and his predecessor Kevin Anderson. Anderson thinks Evans has tried to overthrow him and take his job. Sports Department staff did not have a clear reporting structure, including the staff working for the football program itself and, in particular, the court.
There were conflicting organizational charts with administrators, Court, and Durkin that did not agree with who told Court.
The confusion reported by Mr. Court is a striking example of the disarray of the Ministry of Athletics.
Maryland eventually fired Anderson under strange circumstances. (Read more about this shortly.) Evans was the provisional AD after, including when McNair collapsed during a workout and died. University President Wallace Loh has since promoted Evans to permanent AD.
The report eventually blamed the university for the dysfunction in the sports department.
. 3 Durkin's relationship with Maryland's leadership is so bad that it is highly unlikely that he would ever be able to train there again.
The report contains many examples of Durkin who wanted things that the athletic department would not give him and have bad relations with his leaders. This includes trying to recruit a football team psychologist for players and changing school policy for gamblers and marijuana to be less "punitive" and "more therapeutic".
The commission told Durkin in an interview: he expressed frustration over the level of support and lack of communication he received from Athletics. "Durkin also said that the Maryland bureaucracy is more challenging than what he has experienced at other schools," suggesting that he was not given a chance to tell "his side of the story" when Maryland suspended him after ESPN had reported in August.
It always seemed far-fetched that Durkin would ever return to Maryland's sideline. His buyout is about $ 5 million, and if a Maryland attempt to fire him for good cause is ruled out, the university will have to pay him to go away or seek a solution.
. 4 When SB Nation inquired about the ratings of Maryland's strength trainers in August, the school did not make them curious. It turns out that the weight trainer was not supervised at all.
An August Freedom of Information Act request filed by SB Nation required the court's contract information in addition to performance reviews and personnel records.
The school disclosed the contract information, but rejected the second and third parts of the request, citing an act prohibiting them from publishing such records.
However, as far as the performance reviews are concerned, they did not exist according to the report (emphasis added).
… Rick Court was not accountable to anyone, and the training staff went unattended for a relatively long time, partly due to a split between the Athletics Director ("AD") and his deputy who pervaded the whole department. There was no formal mechanism for assessing coaching performance. During his term in Maryland, there was not a single performance review for Mr. Court.
5. We now know exactly why Anderson, Maryland's former AD, made a sabbatical shortly after the start of the 2017 football season. And it is bad.
In the fall of 2017, it was announced that Maryland Anderson, the sports director who had hired Durkin, wanted to fire. The timing was surprising, with a good start of the football team that included a season opener in Texas.
It turned out that Anderson had left the university's protocol and used the athletic department to counsel two football players who had been charged with sexual misconduct. Her prosecutor was another Maryland student.
Dr. Loh found it disturbing that Mr. Anderson provided funds to the accused, while the complainant, who was also a student of the athletics department, received no support.
That's a fire offense, so why did not Maryland just fire Anderson? The school put him on a six-month sabbatical for two reasons:
- Mighty people in Maryland worried that leading disciplinarians to Anderson would lead to speculation that Maryland's beloved basketball program was involved in the FBI's investigation of college basketball was. This story was just torn into the national spotlight. (Of course, Maryland is involved in this nationwide investigation anyway.)
- The "grace period" helped Anderson get another job without looking as if he had been fired.
All this led to months of insecurity and instability within the sports department, which probably did not do much good for the well-being of all who worked or played in it.
. 6 The lack of consensus among respondents allows the report to free itself from "toxic culture".
The report ceases to describe Maryland's football culture as toxic despite its documented problems. They did this by using a definition – specifically that of Merriam-Webster – that gave them some leeway.
Toxic means "extremely hard, vicious or harmful". By definition, Maryland's football culture was non-toxic.
"Extreme" is a particularly subjective word in the midst of an already subjective definition. By using the definition they did, they raised the bar for what defines "toxic" as others might define it. For example, Dictionary.com defines "toxic" as "causing unpleasant feelings, harmful or malignant." The New Oxford American Dictionary returns a definition of "very bad, unpleasant, or harmful."
The report uses the lack of consensus on some of the allegations to support itself.
There was no unanimous rejection of the Maryland coaching staff and no unanimous rejection of the treatment of players by any of the stakeholders interviewed by this commission. The only clear consequence was that the extent of Mr Court's obscenities was often excessive and personal. Given our conclusion that Maryland football culture was not "toxic," we do not find that culture has caused the tragic death of Jordan McNair.
The ball is back in Maryland's court now, which is next to do.
They have the report with the results, and they still have the head coach of their football program on the payroll, but not on the sideline.