UMD Football Coach DJ Durkin Fired After Backlash About Board of Regents

He had been on leave since Aug. 11

The University of Maryland fired football coach DJ Durkin a day after the University System of Maryland Board of Regents recommended he retain his job.

The office of university President Wallace Loh confirmed to NBC News' Tom Costello that Durkin's contract was bought out.

“I’m glad that the right thing was done to fire coach Durkin,” said Martin McNair, father of Jordan McNair, the 19-year-old offensive lineman who died of heatstroke June 13, two weeks after collapsing during a workout. “Coach Durkin was a cancer to the University of Maryland football program. I commend Dr. Loh for having the courageous effort to make the decision under hard circumstances to let Mr. Durkin go.”

The Board of Regents' recommendation to keep Durkin led to a day of backlash from students, players, former players and elected officials who thought the coach should be fired.

“The Board of Regents’ decision was horrible — against common sense, against morality, and would have doomed the University of Maryland’s football program,” said Billy Murphy, attorney for the McNair family. “The board was in a bubble, and not all people on the board agreed with this decision, but they’re in a bubble. As a political decision they had to keep coach Durkin and to fire Dr. Loh. Fortunately, Dr. Loh had always been in favor of doing the right thing, and he did it under tremendously high-pressure circumstances to do the wrong thing, to follow what the board said. It’s wonderful that he stepped in and did this immediately to stop the bleeding.”

At Tuesday's Board of Regents news conference about the results of the independent investigation of the culture of the University of Maryland football program, Loh announced he would retire in June.

Elected officials who support Loh were quick to react.

“It’s indefensible, and more and more of my colleagues are saying, What went on?” state Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County) said.

Murphy also wants Board of Regents Chairman Jim Brady out.

“Chairman Brady should be fired,” Murphy said. “His leadership was responsible for this debacle. This was his doing. His misjudgment was horrendous, and he should go. New leadership is absolutely necessary for the board to continue any legitimacy that it may have had in the past which it no longer has.”

Many perceived it as a forced retirement for Loh.

“I don’t know if it falls back to years ago when Dr. Loh agreed that the name of Byrd Stadium should be changed because of racism, and Mr. Brady disagreed with it,” Pinsky said. “I don’t know if that’s what lies at the base of this. Or he just didn’t like Dr. Loh’s leadership.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said Loh has been a friend of his administration and the county.

“I could not believe that the only person who is not keeping their job is Dr. Loh, and the one person who took not only legal responsibility on behalf of the university but moral responsibility,” Baker said.

The 198-page report from the independent commission of eight people said the culture of the program was not the reason behind Jordan McNair's death. The investigation determined the team "did not have a toxic culture" under head coach DJ Durkin but was problematic enough to where players feared speaking out.

The investigation found serious problems with the program that need serious reforms. University President Wallace Loh said plans for reform would be shared in the near future.

The commission interviewed 165 people, including 55 athletes who played for Durkin and 24 parents of players.

An external review of McNair's death found that the athletic staff made several mistakes in his treatment at the scene.

In the wake of McNair's death, an ESPN story found the culture of the program to be "toxic." The University System of Maryland Board of Regents subsequently hired a team to investigate the charges.

Rick Court, the head of strength and conditioning for the team when McNair collapsed, resigned on Aug. 13. The report said there were many occasions in which Court engaged in "abusive conduct" during his time at Maryland.

The Board of Regents found Durkin failed to adequately supervise Court.

Durkin has been on leave since Aug. 11. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is serving as interim coach for the 5-3 Terrapins.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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