By David Ford
After months of investigation, the University of Maryland-appointed commission released their 192-page report, which said the football program did not support or promote a “toxic culture.”
However, the report does mention the program reached the level where players feared to speak out. While the report said the program did not support a “toxic culture,” the part where players feared to speak out against poor treatment suggests that Maryland did. Essentially, the report said the program wasn’t toxic, but provided examples that it was.
In summary, the entire story developed back in May, during the football team’s offseason workouts.
According to ESPN, Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair suffered heat exhaustion in a workout back on May 29. He died two weeks later.
The ESPN article, published back in August, stated, “An ESPN reporter on Thursday and Friday provided details about this story and other findings on the overall football culture and asked Maryland officials for interviews or to comment.”
University officials on Friday afternoon said, “The University of Maryland has placed members of our athletics staff on administrative leave pending the outcome of the external review.”
After the initial ESPN story released, the university placed head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave; the head strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court, resigned back on Aug. 13.
Durkin, an Ohio native and Boardman High School graduate, was hired at Maryland back in December 2015. During his entire tenure, the report suggests Durkin failed to properly monitor and control his entire team, starting with others on the coaching staff.
The university’s 192-page report, released on Oct. 24, said Court engaged in “abusive conduct” during his time at Maryland.
According to page 75 of the report, it mentions an incident where Court allegedly choked an injured Maryland player with “lat pulldown bar in their weight room.”
The report states; “The player had undergone surgery in December 2015 and was struggling to complete an additional pulldown rep of the lat bar. Mr. Court allegedly came up behind the player and said ‘come on mother******’ and pressed the lat bar into his neck, choking him.”
In addition, it mentions Court “would attempt to humiliate players in front of their teammates by throwing food, weights, and on one occasion a trash can full of vomit, all behavior unacceptable by reasonable standard.”
The conclusions of the report not only seem contradictory, but fail to realize the severity of the entire situation. The most baffling claim in the report comes shortly after the previous quote: “Mr. Durkin claims that it was not his responsibility to supervise Mr. Court. But it was, by Mr. Durkin’s own account, his decision to hire Court as the strength coach.”
Durkin claimed it wasn’t his responsibility, as head coach, to supervise one of his assistants. Keep in mind, Durkin is still on administrative leave; he hasn’t been fired yet. The team has played their entire 2018 season with interim Matt Canada assuming head coaching duties.
Just a few days ago, Maryland reinstated Durkin. On Oct. 31, Durkin was fired as the head coach for the Terrapins football program as reported by Bruce Feldman of the Athletic on Twitter.
This came just hours after reports that he would coach against Michigan State University on Nov. 3. In Durkin’s absence, Maryland went 5-3 with a 3-2 Big Ten record.
He signed a six-year contract back in 2015. Last season, Durkin received a guaranteed $2.45 million.
While the report detailed stories of emotional and physical abuse, it denied public claim that Maryland supported a “toxic culture.” The claim makes absolutely no sense.
In the end, the commission interviewed 165 people. Within the report, 55 played football under Durkin, 24 were parents of players, 60 were current and former Maryland Athletic Department staff, 12 were university officials not in the athletic department and 14 were “other people with college football expertise, and miscellaneous individuals.”
One particular player experienced depression and anxiety because of the bullying he received from the football staff and described his time playing under Durkin “as the worst year of [his] life” and said that “it’s hard to hear about it and talk about it again,” as stated by the report.
It’s clear Maryland made the wrong decision to begin with. It eventually became the right decision to fire Durkin after such a horrendous report showed who he is. This is something that every university looks to avoid and is important to every university with athletics.