Investigation finds no ‘toxic culture’ within Maryland football program

A two-month investigation into the Maryland football program and head coach DJ Durkin found there was no “toxic culture” under the third-year coach, but a number of disturbing incidents occurred under Durkin’s leadership.

“The Maryland football team did not have a ‘toxic culture,’ but it did have a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out,” according to the 198-page report obtained by ESPN.

The report was produced by an eight-person commission, which gave their findings to Maryland’s 17-member board of regents Friday.

The commission found there were “many occasions” of abuse, including incidents involving former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court who resigned in August. The report stated Court used homophobic slurs, which he denied but was confirmed by others to the commission itself.

“Mr. Court would attempt to humiliate players in front of their teammates by throwing food, weights, and on one occasion a trash can full of vomit, all behavior unacceptable by any reasonable standard,” the report stated.

“If the culture had been ‘malicious or harmful,’ Mr. Durkin would not have earned the loyalty and respect of many of his student-athletes and coaches. Many players interviewed by the Commission felt Mr. Durkin’s and Mr. Court’s coaching tactics reflected those of a “big time football program,” the commission added.

The commission also found Durkin had some responsibility for Court’s “unacceptable behavior.” Court was hired by Durkin in January 2016, and had no performance reviews during his time with the Terrapins, according to the report.

In the investigation, Durkin was interviewed for more than 10 hours and told the commission he was not responsible for supervising Court but maintained a close relationship with him. The two coaches were so close some players said they viewed the pair as “the same person.”

The commission added the university’s athletic department was “dysfunctional” and “failed to provide Mr. Durkin with the tools, resources, and guidance necessary to support and educate a first-time head coach in a major football conference.”

“There are competing views regarding the causes of, and responsibility for, this division. What is clear is that this schism caused the Athletics Department to operate at a suboptimal level for an extended period,” the report stated.

Along with Durkin and Court, 165 people were interviewed during the investigation. This included 55 athletes who played under the coach, 24 parents of players, 60 current and former members of the athletic department staff, 12 Maryland officials that are no longer with the department and 14 others.

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The report did not make recommendations regarding Durkin or any other athletic department personnel, and the board has not made staffing decisions.

“The University is committed to a fair and accountable process,” the school said in a statement Thursday afternoon, via The Washington Post. “We will continue that commitment as we work to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”

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