Maryland has added head football coach D.J. Durkin to the list of staff members placed on administrative leave as the school investigates a “toxic” culture and death of a player attributed to heatstroke.
The Terps’ program under Durkin has been scrutinized over the the last three days by ESPN and other outlets.
The school previously suspended two athletic trainers and the assistant athletic director for sports performance who were reportedly involved in the fallout from the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair after a workout in June.
“I am extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports,” athletic director Damon Evans said in a letter Saturday. “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. “
Matt Canada, who has never been a head coach, will serve as interim coach. He joined the team as offensive coordinator in January after a stint at LSU in 2017. The Terrapins open the season against Texas on Sept. 1.
Durkin, who was set to begin his third season, has a 10-15 overall record. In a Washington Post report published Saturday evening, a growing sentiment is that he will not be able to save his job given the numerous reports that have cast him and the program in such a negative light. A potential lawsuit from the McNair family also looms.
One high-level booster close to the athletic department, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, told the Post “a lot of donors are of the opinion that Durkin must go” and that there is mounting pressure on Evans to fire Durkin. Other alumni believe that the independent investigation into McNair’s death must also thoroughly examine the allegations of a toxic culture within the program.
Although the school declined to name the staffers suspended, ESPN reported that athletic trainers Wes Robinson and Steve Nordwall along with assistant athletics director Rick Court were put on leave pending a review of McNair’s death.
A school spokesman on Friday night termed the matter a “personnel issue,” according to the Washington Post.
“We will be able to speak in greater detail when the review is complete and shared with the public,” the university said in a statement.
McNair, 19, died June 13. He was hospitalized for unspecified reasons on May 29 after an organized team workout, and his parents said Friday night that heatstroke was the cause of his death.
The university hired Dr. Rod Walters to conduct a review into McNair’s death. Walters is a sports medicine consultant who oversaw athletic training at Appalachian State and South Carolina.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound McNair played in one game as a true freshman in 2017 and was expected to be a key contributor in 2018.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, there were 145 cases of heatstroke related deaths in football players at all levels from 1960 to 2017, with 90 percent of deaths occurring during practices.
The disciplinary action by Maryland came in the wake of a report by ESPN on Friday that depicted a “toxic” culture in the football program under Durkin.
ESPN’s story, which cited current and former players as well as former staffers, detailed an “environment based on fear and humiliation.” Verbal abuse and humiliating eating habits were also among the allegations.