Maryland places football coach Durkin on leave amid investigation

Maryland head football coach DJ Durkin has been put on administrative leave as an independent investigator looks into the death of redshirt freshman Jordan McNair, the school announced Saturday evening.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada will take over as interim head coach.

Already, the school had put head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson and director of athletic training Steve Nordwall on administrative leave, according to an ESPN report. Rick Court, a strength and conditioning coach, also reportedly is on paid leave.

Maryland athletic director Damon Evans released a statement Saturday about Durkin that reads, in part:

"I am extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports. 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 will serve as interim head coach.

"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."

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The outside investigation of Maryland is expected to conclude in September.

An ESPN report on Friday detailed what it called a "toxic culture" in the Maryland football program that existed before McNair's death's on June 13.

Durkin, 40, became Maryland's head coach in 2016. He previously worked as an assistant coach under both Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer and is credited with improving the Terrapins' recruiting efforts. Meyer, himself, is on paid administrative leave at Ohio State while a committee investigates what Meyer knew about, and how he responded to, allegations of domestic violence against assistant coach Zach Smith.

In two seasons in Maryland, Durkin has compiled a 10-15 coaching record. The 2016 team finished the regular season at 6-6 to qualify for a bowl game, which it lost.

McNair, the Maryland offensive lineman who died after collapsing during a spring workout, had a body temperature of 106 degrees when taken to a local hospital in May, according to the ESPN report.

McNair, 19, also struggled to stand straight while running short sprints before his collapse, according to the report. While an official cause of death has not been released, sources told ESPN that his death was due to heatstroke. The website of a foundation his family started in his memory also says McNair died of heatstroke.

He collapsed on May 29 during the outdoor workout and died just more than two weeks later.

The university has hired a former collegiate athletic trainer, Dr. Rod Walters, to investigate whether coaches and team staff followed proper procedures once it became clear that McNair was struggling. His family also has hired a legal team to investigate his death.

ESPN talked to multiple people who described the practice and what happened to McNair, who is said to have experienced a seizure about 45 minutes into the practice -- approximately 5 p.m. ET -- but was not transported to the hospital until much later.

Trainers evaluated McNair on site and called for an ambulance. McNair was taken to Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

"Our preliminary investigation reveals there is an unexplained one-hour time period when nothing significant was done to avoid the complications of heatstroke," McNair family attorney Billy Murphy told ESPN . "Although there is some evidence they allegedly tried to cool him down, he should have been iced immediately. He presented at the hospital with a temperature of 106, which means he was not cooled down.

"We're very concerned about the unexplained one hour between the time of the seizure and hyperventilating that was observed by a coach, and what happened in that remaining hour before the EMT people were actually called. This points to an utter disregard of the health of this player, and we are extraordinarily concerned that the coaches did not react appropriately to his injury."

Murphy added that a lawsuit will "likely" be filed.

While Maryland officials declined an interview request, they did issue a statement disputing that part of the report. The university statement said no one affiliated had a seizure around 5 p.m. that day.

"At no point before or during the external review has a student-athlete, athletic trainer or coach reported a seizure occurring at 5 p.m.," the statement read. "We will be able to speak in greater detail when the review is complete and shared with the public."

The ESPN story detailed complaints against the Terrapins program under Durkin and Court. The complaints concerned what some described as verbal abuse and humiliation of players by the two men.

In a statement, Maryland officials said allegations against Durkin and Court were "troubling and not consistent with our approach to coaching and development" of student-athletes.

--Field Level Media

 

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