University of Maryland president Wallace D. Loh said during a news conference Tuesday that the school accepts “legal and moral responsibility” for the decisions made by its athletic training staff in relation to the death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
McNair was hospitalized following an organized team workout on May 29. He died on June 13; an official cause of death has not been released, but sources told ESPN that his death was due to heatstroke.
Athletic director Damon Evans said Tuesday that McNair “did not receive appropriate medical care, and mistakes were made by some of our athletic training personnel.”
The university hired former collegiate athletic trainer Dr. Rod Walters to investigate whether coaches and team staff followed proper procedures once it became clear that McNair was struggling. According to Walters’ preliminary findings, the staff at Maryland did not take McNair’s body temperature at the workout, apply any cold water immersion treatment or follow the proper emergency response plan.
The details of Walters’ full investigation are expected to be released on Sept. 15.
“We will do everything within our power to ensure that no University of Maryland student-athlete is ever again put in a situation where his or her safety and life are at foreseeable risk,” Loh said.
Billy Murphy, the McNair’s family attorney, told ESPN over the weekend that McNair suffered a seizure at 5 p.m. on May 29, and nobody from Maryland called 911 until an hour after. Murphy added that McNair had a body temperature of 106 degrees when he was admitted to a local hospital.
Murphy also said that a lawsuit will “likely” be filed.
According to Loh, he and Evans visited the McNair family in Baltimore on Tuesday morning to “express on behalf of the university our apology for the loss of their son on that fateful day of May 29th.”
“They entrusted their son to us, and he did not return home,” Loh said.
In the fallout of the tragedy, Maryland has parted ways with assistant athletics director for sports performance Rick Court, who resigned, according to ESPN. Court and the university reached a financial settlement Tuesday.
An ESPN report over the weekend detailed what it called a “toxic culture” in the Maryland football program that existed before McNair’s death’s. In the report, Court was singled out for allegations of verbal abuse and bullying, which were allegedly enabled by head coach DJ Durkin.
Maryland put Durkin on administrative leave on Saturday, with offensive coordinator Matt Canada serving as interim coach. Head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson and director of athletic training Steve Nordwall were also placed on leave, according to ESPN, and Loh said all individuals suspended deserve “due process” before a decision is made on their futures.
Court’s resignation letter, obtained by ESPN, said, in part, “The football student-athletes’ mental and physical health remain my number one priority; thus I am stepping down to allow the team to heal and move forward. I will continue to cooperate with the University’s investigations and I will be transparent with inquiries while respecting the legal process. I will also ensure a smooth transition, so the team is well-prepared for the approaching football season.”
Maryland’s season opener is at home against Texas on Sept. 1.
—Field Level Media