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 Fans
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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