Maryland fired head football coach DJ Durkin on Wednesday, one day after reinstating him from paid administrative leave following a recommendation from the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents. “A departure is in the best interest of the university,” Maryland president Wallace Loh wrote in a letter to the university community. Durkin’s ouster came five months and two days after Terrapins offensive lineman Jordan McNair fell ill during a team workout and died on June 13 from complications of heatstroke. Maryland conducted investigations into both the May 29 workout that led to McNair’s hospitalization, and into the culture of Durkin’s program after allegations of abuse, humiliation and troubling tactics surfaced in ESPN report on Aug 10.
Here is a timeline of events that resulted in Maryland’s decision to fire Durkin on Wednesday:
Dec. 2, 2015: Maryland hires DJ Durkin as head coach. Durkin had served as defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan and was brought to Maryland after previous coach Randy Edsall was fired by the university.
January 2016: Durkin hires Rick Court as head strength and conditioning coach at Maryland. Court had been in the same position at Mississippi State prior to being hired at Maryland.
May 29, 2018: Offensive lineman Jordan McNair is hospitalized after showing signs of heatstroke and exhaustion while participating in a team workout. McNair has difficulty finishing a set of 110-yard sprints and is found to have a body temperature of 106 degrees at a local hospital. Sources later tell ESPN.com that McNair did not finish the runs on his own strength and was eventually walked around the practice field before being taken for treatment.
After evaluating McNair at the football facilities, EMT responders call in a “male patient with a seizure,” and McNair is transported to Washington Adventist Hospital.
June 13, 2018: McNair dies in the hospital at age 19. The cause of death has since been determined to be heatstroke.
June 14, 2018: Maryland holds a news conference with acting athletic director Damon Evans and Durkin, along with team physician Dr. Frank Henn. Evans details the workout and timeline of events that led to McNair’s eventual hospitalization. Evans announces that an external investigation will be conducted but declines to name the organization that will conduct it.
June 19, 2018: Maryland announces the hire of Rod Walters, a sports medicine consultant who oversaw athletic training at Appalachian State and South Carolina, to conduct a review into the death of McNair.
June 21, 2018: ESPN.com confirms the McNair family retained the law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy to represent the family. Billy Murphy, one of the attorneys from the firm, later says a lawsuit is “likely.”
June 25, 2018: Evans is named full-time athletic director. Evans, who had been at Maryland since 2014, had been serving as acting athletic director since April.
Aug. 3, 2018: Practice officially starts and, according to sources, the culture of bullying, led by Court, continues.
Aug. 10, 2018: ESPN.com reports allegations of a toxic coaching culture under Durkin and Court. Multiple sources close to the program describe past behavior of intimidation, humiliation and verbal abuse that created a culture of fear for the players. The sources also reveal allegations of unhealthy eating habits and using food punitively against the players.
Maryland announces two staff members were placed on administrative leave. According to sources at a staff meeting, Evans informed the team that head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson and director of athletic training Steve Nordwall were placed on leave.
Durkin sends a letter to parents of players, saying an upcoming report by ESPN.com may “prompt questions” about the program.
Aug. 11, 2018: Maryland announces Durkin has been placed on administrative leave pending an external review. Evans says in a statement, “I am extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports.” Evans says that the university is committed to fully investigating the program. Sources tell ESPN.com that Court was also placed on leave.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is named interim head coach.
President Wallace D. Loh releases the following statement:
Aug. 14, 2018: Maryland president Wallace D. Loh and athletic director Damon Evans hold a joint press conference to announce preliminary findings in their investigation of Jordan McNair’s death. Loh and Evans met with the family of McNair in Baltimore on Tuesday and personally apologized to the family, acknowledging there were mistakes made by the athletic training staff in the May 29 workout that ultimately led to McNair’s death.
“The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made,” Loh said at the press conference.
Loh also announced he has formed a committee to investigate allegations of a toxic culture within the football program brought to light in an ESPN report.
Evans announced that athletic trainers Steve Nordwald and Wes Robinson, as well as head coach DJ Durkin, are still on administrative leave as that investigation begins. Head strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, who had previously been placed on leave, resigned from the university on Monday.
Both Loh and Evans made note of the new investigation into the culture and that it would be an expeditious process, and the external investigation into the mishandling of Jordan McNair’s health is still scheduled to be released on September 15.
Aug. 17, 2018: The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents takes over both the investigation into the May 29 workout and the investigation into the football team’s culture.
Aug. 24, 2018: The USM board announces five additional members for the commission investigating the football culture, including former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and former U.S. Congressman Tom McMillen, a former All-America basketball player at Maryland.
Sept. 1, 2018: Maryland opens the season with an upset victory over No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field. Maryland players wore a “79” patch on their jerseys and carried a “79” flag onto the field to honor Jordan McNair.
Sept. 21, 2018: The USM board releases the findings by Rod Walters into the May 29 workout that led to McNair’s death. Walters reported that Maryland’s athletic trainers were too late in recognizing McNair’s symptoms and didn’t properly treat him for heatstroke, including not implementing cold-water immersion.
“There was a failure to identify escalating symptoms associated with exertional heat illness,” Walters said, “including assessing vital signs, identifying the condition and aggressively treating the patient’s elevated core temperature. No apparatus was used for prompt cooling of the patient.”
Walters also provided a timeline of the day that showed more than 90 minutes passed from the end of the sprints workout until McNair was transported to an area hospital.
USM board chair James Brady said the second investigation, into the culture of Durkin’s program, would conclude “soon.”
Oct. 5, 2018: Maryland booster Rick Jaklitsch, who had made controversial comments to Maryland’s student newspaper about McNair — “As much as we hate to say this, Jordan didn’t do what Jordan was supposed to do,” Jaklitsch told The Diamondback — is removed from the team’s travel party for a game at Michigan after several players see his name on the team’s itinerary. Players had told football staff members that they didn’t want Jaklitsch around any team activities, yet he was set to travel with Maryland until players again intervened.
Oct. 19, 2018: The commission investigating the culture of Maryland’s football program submits a draft of its report to the USM regents for discussion and review.
Oct. 23 and Oct. 25, 2018: The board holds two meetings, the first in person and the second over the phone, to discuss the findings in the report on the Maryland football culture under Durkin. Several media outlets, including ESPN, obtain a copy of the 192-page report. It concludes that there was “no toxic culture” at Maryland, and that the culture of the program did not contribute to McNair’s death. But investigators found disturbing things about the program under Durkin’s leadership, including instances of bullying and humiliation by strength coach Rick Court. It also concluded that players did not feel comfortable going to Durkin with issues. But it also said the school had a dysfunctional athletic department that did not serve Durkin well in his development as a first-timehead coach.
Oct. 26, 2018: The USM board of regents holds another meeting at its Baltimore offices, where it hears from Loh, athletic director Damon Evans and Durkin, the three Maryland leaders facing uncertain job outlooks. Durkin impresses the board with his presentation, as board chairman James Brady later called Durkin “incredibly forthright” with his plan to move Maryland forward.
Oct. 29, 2018: Loh, Evans and Durkin have morning calls with USM chancellor Robert Caret cancelled. Loh is spotted entering Caret’s office in Adelphi, Md., and emerging about an hour later, but tells ESPN he has no comment about his status or those of others. The USM board holds another meeting, via conference call, to discuss the Maryland football investigation.
Oct. 30, 2018: The USM board of regents announces its recommendations to reinstate Durkin and keep Evans in his role as Maryland’s athletics director. At the same Baltimore news conference, Loh announces he will retire as president in June at the end of the academic year. Sources with knowledge of the decision tell ESPN that the board, which only has the authority to fire Loh, told Loh that he would be fired if he didn’t reinstate Durkin, the board’s top priority. “This was not Dr. Loh’s decision,” a source said. Loh repeatedly praises Evans but doesn’t mention Durkin at all in his opening comments, while accepting the board’s recommendations. Loh defers the status of trainers Robinson and Nordwall to Evans.
“We believe that Coach Durkin has been unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department,” Brady says. “While he bears some responsibility, it is not fair to place all of it at his feet.”
Durkin returns that afternoon to a team meeting in College Park, where, according to sources, a few players walk out in protest. Durkin attends the team’s practice. Terrapins offensive lineman Ellis McKennie, one of McNair’s closest friends, later tweets of the board, “A group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for [McNair’s] death.”
Several Maryland politicians criticize the decision to reinstate Durkin and the USM board’s attempt to marginalize Loh. Marty McNair, Jordan’s father, says at a separate Baltimore news conference that the board’s recommendation, “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and somebody spit in my face.”
The University of Maryland student government association announces a Nov. 1 rally on campus, demanding justice for McNair and protesting Durkin’s return as coach.
Oct. 31, 2018: Political and media criticism mounts for the USM board’s decision to reinstate Durkin. Maryland student body president Jonathan Allen tells ESPN, “People are appalled by this,” and says he plans to introduce legislation that calls for Loh to fire Durkin. Allen also criticizes Brady, the board chair, saying, “It could not have worked out better for chairman Brady.”
Political pressure continues to mount, including a second statement from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who says he’s “deeply concerned at how the [USM regents] could have possibly arrived at the decisions announced [Tuesday].” Hogan calls for a public meeting where the board and Loh reconsider their decisions, ending his statement with, “The University System of Maryland has let down the University of Maryland community and the citizens of Maryland, and now is the time to fix it.”
Durkin leads the team’s afternoon practice, which one source described as listless.
Loh, acting independent of the USM regents, decides that Durkin must be fired. He alerts Evans, who informs Durkin in the late afternoon. Durkin is completely surprised by the decision, according to sources, and leaves the Gossett Football Team House without addressing players. Maryland does not fire the coach for cause.
Evans informs the team that Durkin has been fired, and that Canada will continue as interim coach. The USM board declines to comment on Loh’s decision.
Marty McNair, standing outside the Gossett Football Team House, praises Loh for removing Durkin despite pressure from the board and other influential people around Maryland.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” McNair says, “to try to put some closure to this.”
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