By Ken Reed
Vince Lombardi has been dead for 48 years. Yet, his treat-‘em-like-dogs coaching style is very much alive in today’s sports world.
The University of Maryland football program is but the latest example of tyrannical coaches going way beyond legitimate coaching techniques.
During a May workout, Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair exhibited “extreme exhaustion” during and after abusive conditioning drills, according to reports. After a long delay, McNair was eventually taken to a hospital where his temperature remained 106 degrees more than an hour after he initially collapsed on the field, had a seizure and began hyperventilating. McNair died in June from heatstroke, according to an early report.
“Our preliminary investigation reveals there is an unexplained one-hour time period when nothing significant was done to avoid the complications of heatstroke,” said McNair family attorney Billy Murphy.
“Although there is some evidence they allegedly tried to cool him down, he should have been iced immediately. He presented at the hospital with a temperature of 106, which means he was not cooled down.
“We’re very concerned about the unexplained one hour between the time of the seizure and hyperventilating that was observed by a coach, and what happened in that remaining hour before the EMT people were actually called. This points to an utter disregard of the health of this player, and we are extraordinarily concerned that the coaches did not react appropriately to his injury.”
McNair reportedly had to be dragged by two teammates to finish the final sprint in the conditioning drill. According to an ESPN story, multiple sources said that after McNair finished, Wes Robinson, Maryland’s longtime head football trainer, yelled, “Drag his ass across the field!”
One player at the workout told ESPN:
“Jordan was obviously not in control of his body. He was flopping all around. There were two trainers on either side of him bearing a lot of weight. They interlocked their legs with his in order to keep him standing.”
At a press conference yesterday, Maryland officials accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for mistakes leading to McNair’s death. The strength and conditioning coach in charge of the workout in which McNair collapsed has resigned. Maryland president Wallace Loh acknowledged that McNair’s death could have been prevented. Those are all positive steps, but they aren’t enough. The entire program needs to be blown up and rebuilt.
An investigative report on the Maryland football program described a “toxic” culture under head coach D.J. Durkin, one based on fear, intimidation, belittling, humiliation and embarrassment. Durkin was at the workout in which McNair collapsed.
Maryland is conducting an investigation into the workout in question as well as the entire football program. Based on what we know so far, Durkin will undoubtedly be fired.
However, the bigger issue here for the country as a whole is not what happens to the Maryland football program, it is how do we expel abusive tyrants like Durkin from SportsWorld for good?
It’s shameful that so many coaches of this ilk are still active in 2018, from the youth level to the pros.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.