Report: Ex-Maryland coach D.J. Durkin working at Alabama as consultant

Former Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin has reportedly found work in the world of college football.

According to Al.com, Durkin, who was fired in October after a lengthy investigation into the culture of his program, has been helping Alabama in a “consultant-like capacity” this week. It is “unclear at this point,” Al.com is reporting, if Nick Saban is considering bringing in Durkin for a full-time role on the staff.

Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country, is preparing to play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, a College Football Playoff semifinal.

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Maryland fired Durkin after investigating culture of his program

Durkin was formally fired by Maryland on Oct. 31 after being put on administrative leave in August, weeks before his third season as head coach was set to begin. The coach was put on leave while the alleged “toxic” culture of his program was investigated. ESPN reported that there was a “coaching environment based on fear and intimidation” where “belittling, humiliation and embarrassment” and “verbal abuse” of players was common under Durkin at Maryland.

A day before Maryland president Wallace Loh decided to fire Durkin, Maryland’s board of regents announced a decision to retain Durkin. However, amid widespread criticism, including from state politicians, Loh decided to fire Durkin after meeting with student government and other campus leadership.

The investigation into the culture of Durkin’s program followed the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed during a May conditioning workout. McNair, just 19 years old, died two weeks later.

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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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The investigation into Durkin’s program concluded that its culture was not “toxic.” However, it said there was a culture where “problems festered because too many players feared speaking out.” It also said that Maryland “lacked a culture of accountability” and “did not provide adequate oversight of the football program.”

A separate investigation into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death determined that the school’s training staff did not follow proper procedures in addressing the symptoms shown by McNair, who died of heat stroke.

Maryland has since hired Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to be its next head coach. Locksley plans to stay with the Tide through its playoff run.

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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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The optics of hiring D.J. Durkin

Nick Saban has brought former head coaches to Alabama in low-level roles before, including Lane Kiffin and ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Saban also hired Steve Sarkisian as an analyst after he was fired from USC for his issues with alcohol. But the circumstances surrounding Durkin’s termination from Maryland are much different.

Before becoming the head coach at Maryland, Durkin was defensive coordinator at Michigan and Florida and also had stints as an assistant at Stanford, Notre Dame and Bowling Green. Last month, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel polled some athletic directors about the prospects of hiring Durkin in a full-time role:

The athletic directors said laying low and out of the spotlight will help Durkin, as any decision on hiring him would likely rise to the presidential or board level.

Hiring Durkin could be tricky optics. He was not directly implicated in McNair’s death, nor did an investigation find his program had a “toxic culture,” as alleged in an ESPN report that led to his suspension two months after McNair died. But there were ugly details, including a lack of oversight of strength coach Rick Court and showing the team disturbing videos. One athletic director said a school would have to do a “ton of background” in order to hire him.

“If some remote school like Kansas State did hire him as a coordinator or some other place that isn’t that high profile, there wouldn’t be a lot of buzz,” said a Power Five athletic director.

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