November 1, 2018 / 12:06 AM / 7 months ago

Maryland changes course, fires coach Durkin

A day after announcing head coach DJ Durkin would be retained, Maryland fired the coach on Wednesday, according to a school spokeswoman.

FILE PHOTO: Oct 20, 2018; Iowa City, IA, USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Dontay Demus (7) and teammates carry out a jersey in memory of offensive lineman Jordan McNair before the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. McNair passed away in June. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

School president Wallace Loh said Durkin’s departure was in the best interest of the university.

“Yesterday, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents announced numerous recommendations, including employment decisions about specific personnel on our campus. I accepted the Board’s recommendations,” Loh said in a statement. “At the same time, I announced my retirement as president in June 2019.

“Since returning to campus after yesterday’s press conference, I have met with the leadership of the Student Government Association speaking on behalf of numerous student organizations; the Senate Executive Committee; Deans; department chairs; and campus leadership. The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus.

“The chair of the Board of Regents has publicly acknowledged that I had previously raised serious concerns about Coach Durkin’s return. This is not at all a reflection of my opinion of Coach Durkin as a person. However, a departure is in the best interest of the University, and this afternoon Coach Durkin was informed that the University will part ways.

“This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire University. I will devote the remaining months of my presidency to advancing the needed reforms in our Athletic Department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”

Durkin had led practice Wednesday before athletic director Damon Evans informed him of his firing, according to multiple reports.

The decision to keep Durkin, in the wake of the scandal that rocked the football program following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, inspired widespread backlash on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The McNair family’s attorneys called the decision “callous” and “indefensible,” while McNair’s father, Martin McNair, said, “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and someone spit in my face.”

ESPN reported Tuesday that several players walked out of a team meeting with Durkin.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a statement on Wednesday asking the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and Loh “to reconsider their decisions and to schedule a public hearing to address these issues in an open and transparent manner.”

Loh announced on Tuesday that Durkin and Evans, who was hired as athletic director in July, would keep their jobs. During the same press conference, Loh announced his own resignation, which would be effective in June of 2019.

Multiple reports Tuesday said the board of regents urged Loh to retain Durkin and Evans, making it clear that Loh would be fired if Durkin wasn’t kept as the coach.

Board of regents chairman Jim Brady said during Tuesday’s press conference that the board recommended to university leadership that it retain Durkin as coach, saying he was “unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department” and had “committed to ensuring the proper reforms” were implemented in the program.

Durkin had been on administrative leave since Aug. 11, while two independent investigations were conducted, one into the death of McNair and one examining allegations of a “toxic culture” in the football program under the current leadership.

McNair collapsed during a May 29 practice, displayed symptoms of heatstroke and didn’t receive proper treatment from athletic staffers. He died June 13.

The independent investigations uncovered abuse and bullying in the football program in which players feared retaliation if they spoke up.

—Field Level Media

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