Maryland changes course, fires head coach D.J. Durkin

Maryland has quickly changed course.

The school decided Wednesday to fire head coach D.J. Durkin. The news comes 24 hours after the school’s board of regents initially chose to keep Durkin in place following a lengthy investigation into the culture of his football program. The investigation was sparked by reporting that followed the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. Durkin had previously been on administrative leave since August.

Throughout the day Wednesday, politicians throughout the state had condemned the school’s board for choosing to keep Durkin in place. The board also kept athletic director Damon Evans in place while president Wallace Loh said Tuesday he would retire in June.

The decision to remove Durkin was announced in a letter to the Maryland community from Loh, who said he met with the Student Government Association and other campus leadership.

“The overwhelming majority stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach D.J. Durkin returning to the campus,” Loh said. “The chair of the Board of Regents has publicly acknowledged that I had previously raised serious concerns about Coach Durkin’s return. This is not at all a reflection of my opinion of Coach Durkin as a person. However, a departure is in the best interest of the university, and this afternoon Coach Durkin was informed that the university will part ways.

“This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire university. I will devote the remaining months of my presidency to advancing the needed reforms in our athletic department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”

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Former Maryland football coach D.J. Durkin
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Former Maryland football coach D.J. Durkin
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 19: Head coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins watches action before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 19: Head coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins watches action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Maryland 28-7. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates with Mike London after a victory against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on November 26, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins is doused with Gatorade after a victory against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on November 26, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 26: Maryland Terrapins head football coach D. J. Durkin watches the action during the game against the Boston College Eagles at Ford Field on December 26, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 24: Maryland Football head coach DJ Durkin takes questions during the Big 10 Football Media Days on July 24, 2017 at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 02: Head coach D.J. Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins reacts on the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 9: Maryland Terrapins head coach DJ Durkin south from the sidelines during the game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Towson Tigers at Capital One Field on Saturday, September 9, 2017. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 07: Maryland Terrapins head coach DJ Durkin questions an official after his quarterback was injured during third quarter game action between the Maryland Terrapins and the Ohio State Buckeyes (10) on October 7, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State leads Maryland 55-7 at the end of the third quarter . (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 28: Maryland Terrapins wide receiver D.J. Moore (1) is congratulated by head coach D. J. Durkin after catching a two yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers on October 28, 2017, at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, MD. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 28: Under Armour founder Kevin Plank talks with Head Coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins before the game against the Indiana Hoosiers on October 28, 2017 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 25: Maryland Terrapins head coach D. J. Durkin in action on November 25, 2017, at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, MD. The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Maryland Terrapins, 66-3. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - APRIL 3: Maryland head coach DJ Durkin looks on during spring football practice. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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According to the Washington Post, Durkin was not fired for cause.

Following Tuesday’s press conference, in which board of regents chairman Jim Brady said the board believed Durkin had been “unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department,” McNair’s family came out in strong opposition to the decision.

“I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and somebody spit in my face,” Martin McNair, Jordan’s father, said.

McNair family attorney Hassan Murphy added:

“Chairman Brady and the board of regents had an obligation, not only to the football players on the University of Maryland team, but to the memory of our brother and our son, Jordan. Despite their agendas, the facts are undeniable. The university has an obligation to protect, to educate and to nurture every one of its students.

“It’s very first obligation is to the health and to safety of the students to which it is bound by honor, obligation and law to protect. Yet today, the board ratified and validated the heartbreaking actions by coach Durkin and his staff toward Jordan in May by continuing the employment of the man who failed in his primary responsibility to Jordan. That is callous, and it is indefensible.”

Some Maryland players also spoke out, including lineman Ellis McKennie, a close friend of McNair.

Several reports detailed players walking out the meeting that informed the team of Durkin’s return. On top of that, some did not attend Wednesday’s practice ahead of Saturday’s home game vs. Michigan State.

Now, with Durkin out of the picture officially, the team will carry on with interim coach Matt Canada. Canada, hired by Durkin to be the team’s offensive coordinator, has coached the team the entire season. The Terps have a 5-3 record and can clinch a bowl berth on Saturday.

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Jordan McNair, Maryland lineman who died of heatstroke
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Jordan McNair, Maryland lineman who died of heatstroke
In a September 16, 2016, file image lineman Jordan McNair of McDonogh High School. Now with the University of Maryland, he died on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, two weeks after collapsing during a team workout. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
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