Coach’s fir­ing pushes univer­sity into fur­ther tur­moil

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By ZACK SELBY Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

COL­LEGE PARK — A tu­mul­tuous two days of statewide out­rage di­rected at the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land Board of Re­gents’ han­dling of the probe into foot­ball player Jordan Mc­Nair’s death cli­maxed Nov. 1 as the board chair­man re­signed and hun­dreds packed the McKeldin Mall here to sup­port stu­dent-ath­letes.

James Brady, who is close to Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R), re­signed af­ter a closed-door meet­ing of the re­gents Thurs­day af­ter­noon, just a day af­ter Univer­sity of Mary­land Pres­i­dent Wal­lace Loh de­fied the board and fired head coach DJ Durkin.

The rally, which was orig­i­nally or­ga­nized by the univer­sity’s Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, shifted its fo­cus from protest­ing the board’s rec­om­men­da­tion to re­tain Durkin to back­ing the ath­letes, whose pro­gram was reel­ing from 48 hours of shock­ing twists and turns.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to ac­knowl­edge how im­por­tant we are,” said track and field run­ner Jewel Smith. “We are just as im­por­tant as the other stu­dents. And of course Jordan, the whole sit­u­a­tion is very sad and we need to give our trib­ute be­cause he was part of this cam­pus as well.”

Stu­dents, fac­ulty, play­ers and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials voiced their anger over the board’s de­ci­sion to keep Durkin. Three play­ers walked out of a Wed­nes­day meet­ing with the coach. Some donors also threat­ened to with­draw sup­port from the univer­sity.

While there were many in the rally who were in sup­port of the foot­ball pro­gram, there were oth­ers who wanted to boy­cott the up­com­ing game against Michi­gan State.

“We are not in op­po­si­tion to the foot­ball team,” said ju­nior Al­ice Smith. “We do not hate those peo­ple, we know they are stu­dents too. But we want to see change for them. We want things to get bet­ter for them. And I do not think go­ing to the games is go­ing to help that.”

Oth­ers wanted to hold the Board of Re­gents more ac­count­able.

“Go up there and de­mand that this Board of Re­gents an­swers to you,” said for­mer foot­ball player Akil Pat­ter­son to counter-pro­test­ers. “This Board of Re­gents calls on you. An­swer their call. You are the fu­ture, not them.”

Karen Leven­son, co-chair­woman of a $1.5 bil­lion fundrais­ing ef­fort for the Col­lege Park cam­pus, told the re­gents in a let­ter ob­tained by The Bal­ti­more Sun that she was hold­ing up fu­ture sup­port over the board’s “un­ac­cept­able” han­dling of the Mc­Nair con­tro­versy.

In­deed, Geoff Gonella, chair­man of the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park Foun­da­tion Board of Trus­tees, wrote in a let­ter to the re­gents board chair­man be­fore Brady re­signed that the re­gents’ ac­tion “may have dealt our ef­forts a fa­tal blow.”

The board had un­der­mined “the author­ity of the cam­pus lead­er­ship” and vi­o­lated “the in­tegrity of shared gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples, in­clud­ing au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence,” he said.

The board’s move also “has caused se­ri­ous dam­age to the rep­u­ta­tion of the Board of Re­gents and to all of Mary­land higher ed­u­ca­tion,” Gonella wrote. “The board’s ac­tions will se­ri­ously harm the abil­ity of all Mary­land cam­puses to re­cruit fu­ture pres­i­dents and fac­ulty if this is the gov­er­nance cli­mate they will face.”

The univer­sity’s provost, Mary Ann Rankin, and deans from ev­ery aca­demic de­part­ment re­leased a joint state­ment Thurs­day morn­ing, charg­ing that the board

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