By Ken Reed
Dear University of Maryland Board of Regents: You can’t be serious!
Maryland football coach DJ Durkin, who had been on administrative leave since August following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair due to heatstroke suffered at a team workout, was reinstated by Maryland’s board of directors Tuesday.
McNair died due to an abusive, unsafe coaching culture at Maryland. There’s no other way to read the situation.
Here’s a quick review of the team workout that cost McNair his life:
During a May workout, Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair exhibited “extreme exhaustion” during and after physically and emotionally 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 began hyperventilating, collapsed on the field, and had a seizure.
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!” Durkin was at the workout in which McNair collapsed.
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.”
The workout was being run by strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, who was Durkin’s first hire when he got the head coaching job at Maryland. The two reportedly have the same coaching philosophy. They are “the same person,” according to some players. Court has resigned but Durkin, the man responsible for the abusive football culture, remains.
Many people, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, are questioning Maryland’s decision to reinstate Durkin. Maryland’s student government association has organized a rally to protest the decision.
“We demand justice for Jordan McNair,” said the Executive Board of the University of Maryland Student Government Association in a Facebook post.
Some Maryland football players walked out of the team meeting in which Durkin was brought back to the team as head coach.
“Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate,” tweeted junior offensive lineman Ellis McKennie following Durkin’s reinstatement. “Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right.”
McNair’s family lawyer was equally livid.
“How can a student-athlete be called a p – – – y as he is in the early stages of death, dying before their eyes, with no action taken, and yet no one be held accountable?” asked Hassan Murphy, the attorney representing McNair’s family.
That’s a very good question. In fact, it is THE question as we ponder the Maryland board of regents’ unfathomable decision to retain Durkin.
—Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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
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