University of Maryland fires coach one day after reinstatement in player death scandal

University of Maryland fires coach one day after reinstatement in player death scandal
Some University of Maryland football players are walking out on the team because head coach DJ Durkin wasn't fired after a player, Jordan McNair, died during a workout. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

One day after reinstating head football coach DJ Durkin, the University of Maryland backtracked and fired the embattled coach Wednesday in the aftermath of a player’s death caused by a team workout, according to ESPN.

The school initially shocked many observers when it announced that it was reinstating head football coach DJ Durkin, who had been on administrative leave since August as the school investigated a player death that occurred during a workout in May.

In response, several players walked out of Durkin’s first meeting addressing the team, angry that authority figures are seemingly not being held accountable for the death of their teammate.

“Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate,” Maryland offensive lineman Ellis McKennie wrote on social media. “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.”

Maryland changes its mind

Apparently, it took a day of heated backlash from players, school officials, alumni and politicians for school president Wallace Loh to realize Durkin had to face some consequences for Jordan McNair’s death.

“Since returning to campus after yesterday’s press conference, I have met with the leadership of the Student Government Association speaking on behalf of numerous student organizations; the Senate Executive Committee; Deans; department chairs; and campus leadership,” Loh said in a statement Wednesday. “The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus.”

That statement leads to the obvious question: Did he not talk to stakeholders before reinstating the coach one day earlier?

How did we get here?

Offensive lineman Jordan McNair suffered a heat stroke during a May workout. Investigation revealed that more than an hour passed between him exhibiting stroke symptoms and someone calling 911, and he died in the hospital May 29.

In addition to the failure by the training staff to follow proper procedure to treat McNair, ESPN reports said Durkin oversaw a “toxic” culture that was abusive and degrading to players–an environment that could have led McNair to push himself too hard when he should have stopped.

Why did they initially reinstate him?

It’s not totally clear what the decision-making process was that led the university to reinstate a football coach after a player died under his watch, but that’s the decision the Maryland Board of Regents made Tuesday.

“We believe he is a good man and a good coach who is devoted to the well-being of the student-athletes under his charge,” Board of Regents chairman James Brady said, according to The Washington Post.

Brady also said the athletics department failed to “provide adequate oversight of the football program 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.”

That decision didn’t sit well with many close to the school and program.

“As of today, the only person who has paid for those failures is Jordan McNair,” said Hassan Murphy, the attorney for the McNair family.

Now, Durkin has paid for those failures with his job. Matt Canada, who coached the team while Durkin was on leave, will remain the interim coach.