This story has been updated.
Following their fifth meeting in 11 days Monday evening, the University System of Maryland board of regents scheduled a news briefing for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Baltimore, at which time they were expected to discuss the findings of an independent commission’s report on the culture of the school’s football program. It remains unclear whether the briefing will include any updates on the job status of football coach DJ Durkin, school president Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans.
No personnel announcements followed Monday’s closed meeting, which took place via conference call.
At the start of Monday, Durkin, Loh and Evans were all expected to speak with Robert L. Caret, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland. But Loh’s meeting, originally scheduled for 9:30 a.m., was canceled, according to a person familiar with the situation. Scheduled phones calls with Durkin and Evans also did not take place.
The system’s board of regents has been debating the issue internally for 1½ weeks and has struggled to reach a consensus. On Monday afternoon, the university system released the 192-page report that resulted from the commission’s eight-week investigation into the football program. One person close to the situation stressed Monday that the situation remained fluid.
The regents had given themselves a Tuesday deadline “to announce any initial decisions and/or recommendations from the board,” and had face-to-face discussions with Durkin, Evans and Loh at Friday’s meeting in Baltimore. But according to multiple people familiar with the situation, there was no consensus on the best path forward.
Some of the 17 regents have been pushing to part ways with all three, while other factions have been in favor of retaining only Loh. Still others think all three should be allowed to remain in their current roles. School officials in College Park have been bracing for virtually every scenario, including the possibility that Durkin returns as coach this week.
Even the three men weren’t sure after their appearances before the board Friday.
“We just have to wait to see what happens,” Evans said following his session with the regents.
A spokesman for the university system declined to comment Monday morning, amid some scrutiny of the extent of the regents' authority. James L. Shea, who served two terms as a regent and was the board’s chair until 2016, said he’d never heard of the board hiring or firing campus employees below the rank of president. He said it’d be “unprecedented in Maryland and highly unusual anywhere in public higher education,” if the board tried to take action that impacted the status of Durkin or Evans.
In a telephone interview Monday, Shea cautioned that the board already might have overstepped its bounds by meeting with and questioning Durkin and Evans on Friday. The university system is composed of 12 public colleges and institutions, but the board of regents is not authorized to make any personnel decisions on employees of each campus. The president’s position is the exception, though the regents certainly can have significant influence in other areas.
“What you do is decide whether the president is doing a good job or not,” Shea said. “If you’re not sure, you give him the opportunity to fix things. But you don’t keep the president in place and then try to do his job for him. That’s not what a board does.”
Multiple people familiar with the process, who requested anonymity because the situation remains unsettled, said the regents are continuing to discuss the limits of their ability to make decisions involving College Park personnel.
“My reading of it is the president is the one who has the authority to handle the personnel issues on the campus,” Caret told The Washington Post in an interview last month. “The board obviously can have influence on the president.”
The board then would be relying on the College Park administration to carry out its wishes related to the personnel surrounding the football program and athletic department. That job would belong to Loh, were he to remain in his current role, but it’s unclear whose responsibility it would be, should the board decide Loh also should be out.
“The board seems to be waking up to the fact that they can’t really hire and fire campus staff,” one person close to the situation said. “It’s unheard of for a governing board to say, ‘We’re firing Person X and hiring Person Y.’ It’s unprecedented and would be a huge stain on any university.”
The report released by the university Monday featured appendixes that were not part of a version published last week by media outlets, including The Washington Post. It included a particularly scathing statement from Kevin Anderson, who served as the school’s athletic director from 2010 until his formal resignation in April.
“It is my sincere belief that the instability within the athletic department that began in September 2017 led to the devastating tragedy in May 2018,” Anderson said in his statement.
The former athletic director took particular issue with the circumstances surrounding his departure from the school, which began with an announced sabbatical in October 2017, the result of a growing schism between Anderson and the school administration.
“The way I was treated was undeserved, the process was a disgrace, my reputation has been permanently damaged and my family has suffered terribly,” he wrote. “I believe there was and continues to be a calculated and orchestrated effort to damage my character and marginalize my leadership. It is also abundantly clear that the instability and void in leadership that was created by my abrupt departure led to a serious lack of institutional control.”
The independent eight-person commission’s report also highlighted dysfunction that stretched across the athletic department. It concluded that Maryland football was not plagued by a “toxic” culture under Durkin’s watch, but it outlined troubling incidents, finding fault with leadership and oversight at virtually every level.
While wrestling with those findings and uncertainty about its authority, the board of regents met again Monday evening, as the clock ticked toward its own deadline.
Ovetta Wiggins and Roman Stubbs contributed to this report.