Durkin on leave dur­ing in­quiry

Orlando Sentinel - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Don Markus

Univer­sity of Mary­land foot­ball coach DJ Durkin was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave Sat­ur­day af­ter a pair of explosive me­dia re­ports al­leg­ing abu­sive treat­ment of the play­ers in his pro­gram.

Ath­let­ics di­rec­tor Da­mon Evans an­nounced the move less than 24 hours af­ter three mem­bers of Durkin’s staff were also placed on paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave as a re­sult of their ac­tions on the day that of­fen­sive line­man Jor­dan McNair strug­gled to pass the team’s con­di­tion­ing test May 29.

The 19-year-old McNair, a high school star from the Bal­ti­more area, died June 13 at R Adams Cow­ley Shock Trauma Cen­ter, where he had been trans­ported af­ter first be­ing taken to a hos­pi­tal near the Mary­land cam­pus in Col­lege Park.

Ac­cord­ing to a web­site an­nounc­ing a foun­da­tion es­tab­lished by his fam­ily in his honor, McNair died of heat­stroke.

The school also an­nounced that new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Canada will take over as the team’s in­terim coach. Canada, 46, is in his first year at Mary­land af­ter be­ing fired fol­low­ing a one-sea­son stint as LSU’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. Canada, who has never been a head coach be­fore, could make his de­but in three weeks when the Terps play Texas on Sept. 1 at FedEx Field.

“I am ex­tremely con­cerned by the al­le­ga­tions of un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iors by the mem­bers of our foot­ball staff de­tailed in re­cent me­dia re­ports,” Evans wrote in a let­ter to his staff. “We are com­mit­ted to fully in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pro­gram.

“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. This is ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.”

School pres­i­dent Wal­lace D. Loh also is­sued a state­ment to the Univer­sity of Mary­land com­mu­nity, ex­plain­ing he di­rected Evans to take this ac­tion “to en­sure the safety and suc­cess of our stu­dent-ath­letes.” Loh also an­nounced that Mary­land will re­tain an ex­ter­nal ex­pert to con­duct a “com­pre­hen­sive ex­am­i­na­tion” of the foot­ball pro­gram’s coach­ing prac­tices “with the goal that these prac­tices re­flect — not sub­vert — the core val­ues of our univer­sity.”

On Fri­day, ESPN posted two dif­fer­ent sto­ries, one de­tail­ing the specifics of McNair’s phys­i­cal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion dur­ing and im­me­di­ately af­ter the con­di­tion­ing test, and another on wide­spread in­ci­dents of what was termed “in­tim­i­da­tion, em­bar­rass­ment and hu­mil­i­a­tion” of play­ers by Durkin and strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Rick Court.

Court, who was one of Durkin’s first hires when he came to Col­lege Park from Michi­gan af­ter the 2015 sea­son, was re­ported to be run­ning the con­di­tion­ing test. It was also re­ported that long­time trainer Wes Robin­son was heard telling play­ers to “drag [McNair’s butt] across the field.”

A univer­sity spokes­woman said Sat­ur­day that she did not know whether Durkin’s leave was paid or un­paid.

Ac­cord­ing to a con­tract ob­tained by the Bal­ti­more Sun, Durkin — a for­mer as­sis­tant at Florida — earns $2.5 mil­lion an­nu­ally on a five-year con­tract.

The univer­sity can cease pay­ing Durkin if he is fired with cause and would have to pay him 65 per­cent of his salary if he is ter­mi­nated with­out cause.

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