Maryland begins Big Ten play Saturday against Minnesota, a day after the findings of an external investigation into the death of Jordan McNair are expected to be released. The school’s board of regents will be briefed at their scheduled Friday meeting on the results of an independent firm’s probe into the workout that led to McNair’s death, and those results are expected to be shared publicly afterward.
A second investigation, which has tasked an eight-person commission with reviewing the football program’s culture, has no formal deadline. One or both of these reports could lead to the firing of Coach DJ Durkin, who remains on administrative leave, and potentially impact other athletic department employees.
According to the contract between Walters, Inc. and the university, the report to be released Friday will evaluate the athletic department’s “procedures and protocols related to the recent death of a University football player,” as well as the program’s practices related to athlete health and safety during workouts and in emergencies.
The day after these findings are planned to be released, Maryland will face Minnesota in a home game at noon.
“All we’re going to do is worry about the football game,” interim coach Matt Canada said Monday. “That’s our job. That’s our charge. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Canada, who has never been a head coach, has led the team through a season consumed by uncertainty, particularly regarding the future of Durkin at Maryland. When asked about the navigating this situation, quarterback Kasim Hill said last week the team was just focusing on the next game.
Many parents of players have expressed their support of Durkin, while McNair’s father, Marty, during an appearance on “Good Morning America” last month, said Durkin should be fired and “shouldn’t be able to work with anybody else’s kid.”
The report released this week could provide more clarity regarding Durkin and the staff’s actions during the May workout when McNair suffered a heat stroke. The board of regents then could make personnel decisions based on the findings. If fired with cause, Maryland would not owe Durkin anything, but if he is fired without cause, the school would have to pay him a $5.8 million buyout. Durkin and the university also could negotiate a settlement, as the school did with strength and conditioning coach Rick Court in August. Two other staffers, trainers Steve Nordwall and Wes Robinson, also remain on leave.
While Maryland opened the season with wins over Texas and Bowling Green, the Terps are coming off a 35-14 loss to Temple in which the offense didn’t score. Each game this year has featured tributes to McNair, ranging from starting the season with a missing-man formation to McNair’s number, 79, appearing on helmets, the field and a flag.
“I continue to say how proud I am of our players for focusing on their job, on going to school, on playing football and on grieving Jordan,” Canada said. “And that’s what they’re worried about.”
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