Maryland has decided to reinstate football coach DJ Durkin despite an independent report that revealed a ton of disturbing aspects of his program. That decision will haunt the university.
Durkin held his first meeting with players since his reinstatement on Tuesday and not everyone was happy about it:
This summer, 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair died after collapsing during a practice, the way Durkin ran his program was heavily scrutinized. An independent investigation brought a ton of disturbing details to light, but for some reason, Maryland has decided to ignore those and plow on ahead.
Some excerpts from the report on the program’s culture, excerpted by the Washington Post (“Court” is strength coach Rick Court):
“The commission found that the Maryland football team did not have a ‘toxic culture,’ but it did have a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out.”
“Durkin advertised an “open door” policy, but many players and assistants felt this did not extend to those whose opinions did not align with Mr. Durkin’s. Some coaches feared sharing criticisms about Mr. Court.”
Court was “was effectively accountable to no one,” the report states, and never received a performance review. The commission met with Court and his attorney times during its investigation and ultimately found that Court “on too many occasions, acted in a manner inconsistent with the University’s values and basic principles of respect for others,” according to the report.
“This included challenging a player’s manhood and hurling homophobic slurs (which Mr. Court denies but was recounted by many). Additionally, Mr. 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 any reasonable standard. These actions failed the student-athletes he claimed to serve,” the report states. At another point, investigators wrote: ““There were many occasions when Mr. Court engaged in abusive conduct during his tenure at Maryland, as we document. While some interviewees dismissed this as a motivational tactic, there is a clear line Mr. Court regularly crossed, when his words became ‘attacking’ in nature.”
And this is from a round of interviews the Washington Post did with former players and their parents:
Several players said they felt their health was neglected by coaches and athletic trainers. Little, the former linebacker, said following one practice his body was locked up from head to toe. He still has two small scars in his arm today because staff in the training room couldn’t get an IV needle in his arm.
“While I’m laying there with full cramps . . . Coach Court was demoralizing me in the background,” he recalled, “calling me soft, calling me a p—- b—- for laying down on the table.”
Donahue said he met with Durkin in December 2016 to tell him he could no longer deal with the constant bullying. He says Durkin told him that “sounds like a great story to tell my parents on why I’m quitting.”
It’s hard to see how Durkin could possibly continue to coach. Just from a practical perspective, how can he be expected to recruit anyone? A kid died on his watch and he clearly mentally abused some of his players. How can he walk into any living room and convince parents to allow him to oversee their sons?
Lets be real here: Durkin isn’t Vince Lombardi. He’s a 40-year-old with a career head coaching record of 10-15. The one thing he was known for was being a strong recruiter and I think we can kiss that designation goodbye. Why on Earth is Maryland hitching its wagon to this guy?
He’s almost certainly going to be around a while, as will the toxic culture he has fostered. How is that good for anyone at Maryland?
College administrators often claim to be putting students first. If that was the case, Durkin would never coach another game. The report on the program’s culture detailed a world of mental and physical abuse fostered by the head coach. Then they decided to bring that coach back.
This decision will haunt the school for years.