Coach’s firing pushes university into further turmoil
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