The entire Maryland football staff and university president Wallace Loh should be fired as soon as a school-commissioned external review of the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death concludes.
No one deserves a second chance after an ESPN report published Friday detailed a program in which coach DJ Durkin and his staff have humiliated, intimidated and overworked players.
In a Saturday letter to trustees, faculty, students and alumni, Loh said he intends to hire an outside expert to perform a “comprehensive examination of our coaching practices.” There’s a teachable moment here for sure, but the current administration can’t be allowed to implement the lessons. Not when a young man is dead at 19.
Maryland placed Durkin, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court and two members of the athletic training department on administrative leave Saturday. ESPN’s report shared players’ examples of widespread mistreatment and cited an investigation led by the McNair family’s lawyers that pointed to mishandling of McNair during conditioning drills that led to heatstroke on May 29 and his death 15 days later.
The external review of McNair’s treatment is expected to be released Sept. 15. If the reports of player abuse prove true, Durkin’s contract should be terminated without $1 in severance pay.
Loh shouldn’t get a pass, either. He has micromanaged sports throughout his eight-year tenure, selling the school’s athletics to the Big Ten for more TV money. If leaving the ACC was such a good deal, why did Loh do it in secret? Because alumni would have objected. Loh has done a good job elevating Maryland’s education status, but any goodwill is lost after a student-athlete’s death. Maryland’s board of regents should fire Loh or force him to resign.
Even athletic director Damon Evans should quit. He spent about eight months overseeing the football program as interim AD before being promoted in June. As head of the department, Evans should have known how football players were being treated.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is slated to lead Maryland for its Sept. 1 opener against Texas at FedEx Field. But this whole staff is tainted now, and the Terps would be better off replacing all the coaches. Maybe former coach Ralph Friedgen could be persuaded to oversee one season.
It doesn’t matter how many wins a massive turnover might cost the team. This tragedy requires a total reboot. What parent in their right mind would let their son sign a letter of intent to come to College Park under these conditions? As Maryland learned after Len Bias’ death in 1986, scandals like this leave a black mark on the entire school.
A player dying of heatstroke under the school’s watch is unforgivable. The abuse alleged in the reports is unforgivable.
Coaches always say they’re educators in charge of helping young men create better lives, not just getting them to the NFL. Durkin and his staff failed miserably. Loh allowed the environment to fester. Now it’s time for both to get out.
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