The independent commission charged with investigating the culture of Maryland football has completed its review of the program, but any decision on Coach DJ Durkin’s future could still be a week or more away.
The commission plans to submit its findings Friday to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, which is gathering in Hagerstown for a long-scheduled meeting. But the topic of Maryland football is not expected to be discussed in detail until next week. The board will be briefed by the commission during a closed session, and regents are expected to hold a special meeting Tuesday at which they will discuss the commission’s findings at length and begin plotting a course of action for Maryland football.
It is doubtful they will make any immediate personnel decisions at that subsequent meeting, though it is possible they could take action in the days that follow.
The university system, which is composed of the state’s 12 public colleges including its flagship campus in College Park, released a statement Wednesday saying that within one week of next Tuesday’s meeting it intends to make the commission findings public and “to announce any initial decisions and/or recommendations from the board.”
“We have said from the beginning that, if true, the allegations related to the culture of the football program at the University of Maryland, College Park are unacceptable,” James T. Brady, the board chair, said in a statement. “We have also said we are determined to get all the facts possible before acting. While the final stage of that process begins on October 19th, members of the board will need appropriate time to study the findings, ask follow-up questions, come to conclusions, and consider any potential outcomes.
“As public servants, we have an obligation to take the time necessary to get this right,” he said. "Once the board has had the time it needs to review the findings, the information will be shared with people of Maryland in a fully transparent fashion.”
The board had previously indicated that it would wait until the completion of three independent investigations before making any decisions regarding the embattled football program. The review of the workout that resulted in the death of 19-year old football player Jordan McNair was concluded and presented to the board Sept. 21. The state attorney general’s office is also looking into the events surrounding McNair’s death, but it’s not clear when that review might wrap up.
The commission tasked with probing the culture of Maryland football program was originally assembled in August by Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, in the wake of news reports about abuse and bullying within the program.
Loh appointed two retired federal judges and a Baltimore attorney to the commission before the board of regents took control of the commission and added five more members, including Washington Redskins vice president of player personnel Doug Williams; former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich; former U.S. congressman and Maryland basketball star Tom McMillen; and sports broadcaster Bonnie Bernstein.
Loh had instructed the original commission members in an email to conduct interviews “in order to make an assessment on whether the relatively few (but deeply troubling) cases of alleged ‘abuse,’ reported anonymously in the media, indicate the existence of a widespread ‘toxic culture’ . . . or, do these reported cases represent only a small portion of the population of football players, present and past.”
Over the course of eight weeks, much of the investigative work was headed up by attorney Charles Scheeler, who was appointed to the commission by Loh, and associates at the law firm DLA Piper. While investigators have been tight-lipped about their work, The Washington Post reported last month that several former players and parents have described to investigators incidents of abuse, bullying and humiliation from their or their sons' time in the Maryland program. Others said they told commission members they found tactics employed by football staffers to be motivational in nature, not abusive.
Following a report in The Post, the school shared with the commission a letter it received from an anonymous parent in December 2016 — 1½ years before McNair’s death — warning about a unhealthy and hostile culture within the College Park program.
“Are any of you aware or do you even care about the number of student athletes suffering from severe emotional distress because of the abusive actions of Coach Durkin?” the parent asked. “His actions are extreme and outrageous; intentional and reckless, and the sole cause of the emotional distress.”
Durkin has been on administrative leave since Aug. 11. Under interim coach Matt Canada, the 4-2 Terps will play their seventh game of the season Saturday at No. 19 Iowa and then host Illinois on Oct. 27.