Explaining discrepancies between his initial version of the circumstances that led to the death of football player Jordan McNair and that laid out in an independent investigator’s report on the matter released last week, Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans said he had been given bad information when he first met with reporters in June.
The report produced by Walters Inc., an athletic training consulting firm run by longtime athletic trainer Rod Walters, offered the most detailed timeline to date on the May 29 conditioning workout during which McNair suffered exertional heat stroke. McNair died June 13.
On page 66, the report states, “Information reported to UMD attorney, athletic director, and senior administration two days post event was not representative of activity and care on the field May 29, 2018.”
Walters said in an email that he simply noted what he had been told by school officials and referred further questions to Evans, Mike Poterala, the school’s general counsel, or Colleen Sorem, Maryland’s deputy athletic director.
Asked about any inconsistencies, Evans said in a statement, “I regret that those details, which were based off the information shared with the university at the time, contained inaccurate information. We learned through the preliminary findings that the appropriate protocols were not followed, and the university apologized for the mistakes made. We have committed to implementing the Walters review recommendations and taking further actions to enhance the safety of our student-athletes.”
It is not clear if the faulty information originated with athletic trainers, coaches or some other school employee. A school spokeswoman said because the matter pertains to personnel issues, it could not release any more details. In his statement Tuesday, Evans said “in the hours and days following Jordan’s hospitalization,” the university was told by people he did not name that the player had successfully completed the conditioning workout before displaying any symptoms.
According to the Walters report, players were undergoing baseline conditioning tests May 29 that consisted of 10 sprints, each measuring 110 yards. After completing seven runs, McNair “was reported by the Athletic Trainers as exhausted,” the report stated. The report stated that McNair failed to complete the eighth and ninth attempts, and on the final run, teammates had to help walk him to the finish.
“Following the initial press conference, conflicting information about the timeline emerged,” Evans said in his statement, “and it became clear that the independent review would need to discern the most complete timeline possible — one that could be verified by multiple eyewitnesses and all sources of information available to us.”
Evans first disclosed details about the May 29 workout at a news conference on June 14, one day after McNair died. That day, he said on four occasions that McNair completed his workout. That was when “our trainers noticed that Jordan was having some difficulty recovering,” he said then. “What I do know is that they were immediately over to him.”
Nearly six weeks later, DJ Durkin, the head coach who was later placed on administrative leave, made a similar assertion at Big Ten Media Days, saying, “I was there. Our whole coaching staff was present that day. He completed the running exercise that day, 10 110s, and he did complete it.”
Evans initially launched the external review “to have an examination of all firsthand accounts and available documentation to establish the accurate timeline for the day and to determine whether the appropriate policies were followed,” he said in his statement.
“With the report released by the Board of Regents, we now have confirmation that there were inaccuracies in the initial information shared with the university that informed my comments in the June 14th press conference,” he said in his statement.
Evans previously told reporters at an Aug. 14 news conference that school employees failed to diagnose or treat McNair for exertional heatstroke at the May workout. He didn’t address the timeline that day but seemed to acknowledge that his initial explanation was incomplete.
“We sat down and met with individuals on our staff to try to ascertain as best we could what transpired on that particular day and we provided you with the information that we had at that time,” he said.
Before the Aug. 14 news conference, where Maryland President Wallace D. Loh accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes that led to McNair’s death, school officials had maintained they had done all they could to treat the 19-year-old player.
“I’m very confident in the personnel we have and the procedures we have in place,” Durkin said July 24.
Evans had said on June 14 that the school’s medical personnel was “supporting active recovery” and “providing necessary care,” even though he’d later learn they failed to diagnose McNair with heatstroke and the player’s body’s temperature wasn’t lowered to a safe range until nearly 2½ hours after he first exhibited symptoms.
Evans also said at the June news conference that McNair was transferred to a hospital at approximately 6 p.m., while the Walters report states the ambulance didn’t depart school grounds until 6:27. He told reporters that Maryland players are given a gallon of water before practice and were served lunch at 2 p.m. The Walters report stated that McNair’s water was found unopened in his locker and that all he’d eaten that day was a bowl of cereal.
The school has instituted some changes, and while it took no immediate actions in response to the new report, officials say they intend to implement all of Walters’s recommendations.
Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.