This story has been updated.
The investigation into the University of Maryland’s football program cost the school more than $1.57 million, with four of eight members of a special commission billing the university more than six figures apiece for their two months of work, according to recently released documents and invoices.
Tasked in August with probing the culture within the football program, the commission submitted a 192-page report of their findings in October. The report made no personnel recommendations, but Maryland’s board of regents leaned on the findings to advise retaining coach DJ Durkin. Less than a day later, amid public backlash, Maryland President Wallace D. Loh decided to fire Durkin despite the regents’ report-based recommendation.
Much of the investigation’s legwork was done by the Baltimore law firm DLA Piper, which charged the university system $636,772 for its services. The eight commission members each charged an hourly rate of $650.
Charles Scheeler, the DLA Piper attorney who served as the commission’s point person, billed the university system for $283,855, and Ben Legg, a retired federal judge, charged $161,915. Alex Williams, also a retired judge, charged $155,194 for the work he did alongside an associate.
Bonnie Bernstein, the journalist and Maryland graduate, billed for $118,463, and Frederick M. Azar, the chief of staff at Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics in Memphis, charged $71,129.62.
Rounding out the group, Tom McMillen, the former Maryland basketball star who served three terms in Congress, charged $58,996; former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. billed $40,300; and Doug Williams, retired Redskins quarterback and current team senior vice president, charged $30,550.
The university system released 110 pages of invoices this week in response to a public records request from The Washington Post. According to the documents, commission members submitted invoices directly to DLA Piper, which in turn billed the university system in three invoices, dated Sept. 17, Oct. 29 and Nov. 8. The invoices are largely itemized and detailed the work performed by the commission members — interviews, conference calls, drafting or reviewing the eventual report.
The commission members also were compensated for their expenses and travel time. Bernstein, for example, took 14 train rides to and from New York, where she is based, billing about $2,600 for each. Alex Williams drove from Bowie to Hagerstown for a regents’ meeting, which cost $975 for travel time and $1,950 for the actual meeting. And Doug Williams had a car service drive from Ashburn to Baltimore and back, which resulted in a $477 charge.
The invoice from the Redskins executive is the only one not itemized by date, but it stated that he put in 47 hours in all, helping with a “review of interview memos, Commission conference calls, drafting conference calls and meeting with the Board of Regents.”
The documents also list $152,000 for an insurance policy the university system took out to cover the commission members in the event of legal action.
The probe was launched two months after Maryland lineman Jordan McNair died after suffering exertional heatstroke at a team workout and amid media reports that the program’s demanding culture may have contributed to the player’s death.
The commission originally was convened Aug. 14, when Loh appointed Scheeler, Legg and Alex Williams. Days later, the regents took over control and added the other five members. The board oversees the state’s 12 public universities, including its flagship school in College Park.
The commission’s report, which was submitted to the board Oct. 19, highlighted many instances of bullying or concerning behavior but said the football program was not “toxic.” It scrutinized the program’s operations and oversight but made no personnel recommendations. The board of regents leaned heavily on the report’s findings before making its final determinations Oct. 30. The board ultimately agreed to recommend retaining Durkin and Athletic Director Damon Evans while accepting Loh’s intention to retire at the end of the school year. The board’s actions prompted swift and loud public objections, which sparked Loh to fire Durkin the next day.
The board of regents approved a plan Wednesday to delay Loh’s retirement until mid-2020 while the governing board of the College Park campus searches for a successor.
While the board took on oversight of the commission’s work, the College Park campus still absorbed the costs.
“No state allocated funds and no tuition dollars were used to pay for the costs associated the Commission’s report,” school spokeswoman Katie Lawson said. “The university instead allocated revenue generated from sales and services.”
In a statement, a spokesman for the university system said, “the USM Board of Regents’ highest priority was to accurately and assertively learn every fact possible and to implement all recommendations necessary to safeguard the physical and emotional well-being of student-athletes.”
The spokesman noted that the group “expended hundreds of hours interviewing 165 current and former players, parents, coaches, university officials and others, and reviewing thousands of documents, emails and text messages.”
“From the outset, the board was committed to an exhaustive and careful process that would enhance the safety and health of student-athletes, immediately and in the long term,” the spokesman said. “The expenses incurred are in line with those of investigations of similar scope conducted at Big Ten and other NCAA Division I universities.”
Costs of outside investigations can vary wildly. For example, the long-running academic scandal at the University of North Carolina resulted in nearly $18 million in legal bills, which includes $3.1 million for the 2014 Wainstein report. The sex abuse scandal at Penn State reportedly has cost $23.5 million, more than $12.2 million of which went toward the Freeh report and associated crisis communications.
At Maryland, the commission’s investigation was one of two related to the football program. The College Park campus entered into a contract in June with Rod Walters, an athletic training consultant, to focus on the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death. That contract was initially capped at $24,000 but according to a school spokeswoman, he was eventually paid approximately $79,000 for his services.
The total cost stemming from the football program’s woes is much higher than the commission’s invoices. In firing Durkin, the school agreed to buy out the remainder of his contract, which will cost the College Park school more than $5 million. His replacement, Michael Locksley, was hired in December and will make $2.5 million in his first year.
There are some other associated costs that the athletic department will be monitoring closely as well, including potential impacts on corporate sponsorships, season ticket sales, and fundraising dollars.