BY ALL accounts, Jordan McNair had a bright future ahead of him. A redshirt freshman who was a kinesiology major at the University of Maryland and an offensive linesman for the football team, he was described as a “humble and genuine human being” who “always had a smile on his face.” But his life was tragically cut short after he collapsed of heatstroke during a team workout on May 29 and died in a hospital 15 days later.
According to medical records reviewed by The Post, Mr. McNair began suffering a seizure approximately 45 minutes into a team workout. Though he exhibited the symptoms of heatstroke, training staff did not take his temperature or immerse him in cold water as they should have done immediately. Paramedics were called almost an hour later, and when he arrived at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, his temperature had hit 106 degrees. Hospital personnel were able to reduce his temperature to 102 degrees, but by then it was too late. Experts say that if he had been treated within half an hour of the heatstroke, he would have likely survived.
Mr. McNair’s death has cast a spotlight on the culture of Maryland’s football program, which — like many other big-money athletic programs — seemed to place a premium on wins over student well-being. An ESPN report released last week describes the environment as “toxic” and “based on fear and intimidation.” Players were reportedly subjected to frequent verbal abuse and forced to partake in unhealthy eating habits. The report singled out former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court as particularly abusive; he allegedly threw weights and other objects at players when enraged. Mr. Court led the training session in May and has since left the university.
At a news conference Tuesday, Maryland President Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans acknowledged that the athletic staff failed to properly diagnose and treat Mr. McNair and formally apologized to his family. The university deserves credit for accepting “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes before the official investigation into Mr. McNair’s death has been concluded. University officials were also right to swiftly part ways with Mr. Court and establish an external probe to investigate the football program. However, there is still much more to be done.
The process of cleaning up the program and changing the culture will take time and commitment. Maryland needs to undertake a thorough and rigorous investigation into all allegations of abuse and intimidation and hold all the staff members who failed to help Mr. McNair accountable. It should also create new monitoring and reporting mechanisms to prevent players from being verbally abused or pushed beyond their limits. Other football programs should follow suit.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Mr. Evans told reporters, “I have looked into the eyes of a grieving mother and father, and there is simply nothing good enough.” Nothing can bring back Mr. McNair, but Maryland can honor his memory by making sure that it never again fails an athlete entrusted to its care.