Mary­land puts Durkin on leave amid foot­ball in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Ralph D. Russo

Mary­land placed head coach DJ Durkin on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave on Satur­day while the school scru­ti­nizes al­le­ga­tions of poor be­hav­ior by the foot­ball staff, ap­par­ent mis­deeds that came to light fol­low­ing the death of a player on the prac­tice field.

In an open let­ter, ath­letic di­rec­tor Da­mon Evans wrote: “At this time, the best de­ci­sion for our foot­ball pro­gram is to place Mary­land Head Foot­ball Coach DJ Durkin on leave so we can prop­erly re­view the cul­ture of the pro­gram.”

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Canada will serve as in­terim coach.

Ear­lier Satur­day, the head of the foot­ball team’s strength and con­di­tion­ing staff was placed on paid leave while the school in­ves­ti­gates claims he ver­bally abused and hu­mil­i­ated play­ers, ac­cord­ing to a per­son briefed on the sit­u­a­tion. The per­son spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause Mary­land had not an­nounced the de­ci­sion re­gard­ing Rick Court.

Mary­land has also placed two ath­letic train­ing staffers it did not iden­tify on leave as it in­ves­ti­gates the death of Jor­dan Mc­Nair. The 19-year-old of­fen­sive line­man was hos­pi­tal­ized May 29 af­ter a team work­out and died June 13. Dr. Rod Wal­ters, a for­mer col­lege ath­letic trainer, has been hired by Mary­land to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances. A re­port is ex­pected by Sept. 15. Mc­Nair’s par­ents are be­ing rep­re­sented by Bal­ti­more at­tor­ney Bill Mur­phy, whose firm is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

In his open let­ter, Evans wrote: “The ex­ter­nal re­view into the tragic death of Jor­dan Mc­Nair con­tin­ues, and we have com­mit­ted to re­leas­ing pub­licly the re­port be­ing pre­pared by an in­de­pen­dent and na­tional ex­pert.”

ESPN re­ported that head foot­ball ath­letic trainer Wes Robin­son and di­rec­tor of ath­letic train­ing Steve Nord­wall were placed on leave by Mary­land.

An ESPN story Fri­day quoted uniden­ti­fied play­ers, for­mer play­ers and for­mer mem­bers of Durkin’s staff, who con­tended Court and Durkin cre­ated a toxic cul­ture within the pro­gram.

“The safety and well-be­ing of our stu­dent-ath­letes is our high­est pri­or­ity,” Evans wrote. “These al­leged be­hav­iors are not con­sis­tent with the values I ex­pect all of our staff to ad­here to and we must do bet­ter.

Durkin is start­ing his third sea­son at Mary­land. The 40-year-old for­mer Michi­gan de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor is 11-15 in two sea­sons af­ter re­ceiv­ing a fiveyear, con­tract worth $12.5 mil­lion in De­cem­ber 2015.

Durkin brought Court to Mary­land to lead the strength and con­di­tion­ing staff in 2016. Court had been the head strength coach at Mis­sis­sippi State since 2014 un­der coach Dan Mullen. Court also worked with Durkin at Bowl­ing Green in 2005 and ‘06, when Durkin was an as­sis­tant.

Mis­sis­sippi State quar­ter­back Nick Fitzger­ald ex­pressed sup­port for Court on Satur­day. Fitzger­ald’s first two sea­sons with the Bull­dogs co­in­cided with Court’s time lead­ing the strength pro­gram at the school.

“He worked us hard,” Fitzger­ald told the AP. “They were def­i­nitely tough work­outs, but ul­ti­mately he wasn’t out to get any­body. He wasn’t out to hurt any­one. His job is to make us phys­i­cally fit and ready for the sea­son and that’s ex­actly what he did. From what I re­mem­ber, he never re­ally went over the line or did any­thing crazy like that.”

CAR­LOS OSORIO — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, Mary­land head coach DJ Durkin walks the side­line dur­ing the first half of the Quick Lane Bowl NCAA col­lege foot­ball game against Bos­ton Col­lege in Detroit. Mary­land placed the head of the foot­ball team’s strength and con­di­tion­ing staff on paid leave while it in­ves­ti­gates claims he ver­bally abused and hu­mil­i­ated play­ers, a per­son briefed on the sit­u­a­tion said. The per­son spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on Satur­day on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause Mary­land had not an­nounced the de­ci­sion re­gard­ing Rick Court. The per­son says ath­letic di­rec­tor Da­mon Evans spoke with the foot­ball team Satur­day morn­ing and Durkin was still lead­ing the pro­gram.

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