Saturday afternoon, Matt Canada will coach his seventh football game for the University of Maryland, where he was hired to be the offensive coordinator. “I’m still the offensive coordinator,” Canada said this week. I get why he said that, even though he has been the head coach since DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave — correct that, paid administrative leave — on . . . (checks calendar, blinks, checks again) . . . Aug. 11 .
When the Terrapins kick off Saturday at Iowa, 70 days will have passed since Maryland administrators felt there was enough credibility to an ESPN report outlining Durkin’s Neanderthal coaching methods that he was told to not come to work.
Seventy days. Hopefully, Durkin has a comfortable couch. He certainly can afford one.
Maybe the folks determining the fate of those who oversee Maryland football needed the extra time to read the ensuing reports — including a deep and damning story three weeks ago in the Post — of how Durkin ran his program: humiliating players, motivating them through bizarre relationships with food, creating a stratified system of haves and have-nots.
While we’re counting here — and goodness knows, given the way they run things across Maryland’s university system, we’ve got the time — that kickoff is 144 days after offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed during a Maryland workout. That kickoff is 131 days after McNair died because he suffered heat stroke that Durkin’s staff didn’t feel urgency to treat. That kickoff is one day after the regents of the University of Maryland System met in Hagerstown and received, but did not act on, a report on the environment in which this all happened.
I hope they had a lovely dinner.
Two months ago, the regents took control of this process, appointing a commission to investigate Durkin’s program. At the time, it appeared logical. Wallace Loh , the president of the flagship university in College Park, was too close to the situation. Someone else needed to oversee the process. Fine. Great. Let’s go.
Since seizing control, though, the regents have treated the situation with all the urgency of the Maryland athletic training staff that tended to McNair the day he collapsed. Which is to say, none.
The regents received the report from the commission they appointed at their Friday meeting. Their response: Let’s chew on this over the weekend. How’s Tuesday sound? Great. Talk then. Enjoy the football game!
I know they need to be thorough. I know they need to digest it. But didn’t their reading over the past, oh, 70 days — of the initial ESPN report, of the Post’s subsequent reporting, of the report from a medical expert on what went down at that May 29 workout — pique their curiosity, even a teensy bit? Did none of them come to that meeting and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, the people of this state should reasonably expect us to be pursuing action here — and vigorously. Let’s read this report and talk about it in real time. Let’s move.”
Of course, if they were taking their cues from the administration in College Park, this fits right in. There, Damon Evans was hired as an administrator to oversee football in 2014, then named interim athletic director in the fall of 2017, then named permanent athletic director in the summer of 2018.
At the August news conference the university took, in Loh’s words, “legal and moral responsibility” for McNair’s death, and Evans introduced himself as the “new” athletic director. He then said, “In July, when I was named athletic director, my highest priority was to investigate the events surrounding this death.”
That’s appalling, given he was the de facto AD for the nine previous months, and though he announced the original investigation into the missteps in McNair’s care, it evidently didn’t become his highest priority until he got the job on a permanent basis.
Though the more you think about it, maybe there’s a benefit to the fact that little responsibility or blame has been assigned here 144 days — more than four months — after McNair’s collapse. The regents’ feet-in-cement course has allowed so much more information to be uncovered about how the University of Maryland works that they, unwittingly, have solidified the infallible case not only that Durkin must go — that’s been obvious for months, even as his bank account balance rose — but that others should be in peril, too. What more do you need to know about Evans’s lack of initiative — and subsequent distancing of himself from the problem — to be convinced he can’t work here, either?
But more than that: Since the regents took over the investigation and named their commission — which included, it’s worth reiterating, a sitting NFL executive in Redskins personnel man Doug Williams, who simultaneously had a roster to build — the Post’s Rick Maese and Roman Stubbs reported that Loh squashed a proposal to overhaul the athletic department’s medical services in what looks to be a petty turf battle. They also wrote about the athletic department paying a lawyer to defend two football players who had been accused of sexual assault. And they further detailed the accounts of players and parents of how Durkin and his subordinates thought were appropriate methods to run a football program in 2018.
Come to think of it, Maese and Stubbs, along with ESPN’s Heather Dinich, might have made good members of the commission. They would have been able to provide the regents, in a much more timely fashion, information about the horrors of Durkin’s program.
You know who all this is a shame for? The players on that team who will compete Saturday at Iowa. Some of them lost a friend. All of them lost a teammate. None of them know who their coach will be going forward. None of them have closure.
“What anybody wants doesn’t matter,” Canada said.
He’s got that right. Somehow, the Terrapins are 4-2. Who knows how they can recruit in this environment, in the midst of all this uncertainty? That’s a trivial matter when it comes to the enormity of this situation, sure. But it’s also a reality. At some point, presumably, we’ll have answers about who will be running this program going forward, and what those people will be able to say about the environment they’re creating.
Until then, root for those kids in the Terrapin uniforms at Iowa. They had nothing to do with creating this mess, yet they’re the people who have had to live in it for 145 days.
“We’re very proud of our players for the way they’re doing it,” Canada said.
There’s some solace there, for sure. It’s nice to have someone who supporters of Maryland can be proud of.
For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.