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

Maryland has quickly changed course.

The school decided Wednesday to fire football 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.

Lawmakers pressured Maryland to fire Durkin

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.”

According to the Washington Post, Durkin was not fired for cause. He was informed of the decision a few minutes after the Terps practiced Wednesday.

Jordan McNair’s family was livid over initial decision to keep Durkin

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.”

Maryland players walked out on Durkin

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

Several reports detailed players walking out of 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.

The University System of Maryland’s board of regents announced Tuesday their recommendation that Durkin retain his job. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
The University System of Maryland’s board of regents announced Tuesday their recommendation that Durkin retain his job. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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