BALTIMORE – The University System of Maryland Board of Regents on Tuesday recommended that the university’s president, Wallace Loh, athletic director Damon Evans and head coach DJ Durkin retain their jobs despite finding “problems that festered” within the football program, which was shaken by last summer’s death of player Jordan McNair.
However, the 72-year-old Loh announced at a press conference that he would retire in June.
McNair’s family, which has publicly called for Durkin to be fired, was not pleased with the board’s decision. McNair’s father, Marty McNair, said he felt like he had been “punched in the stomach and spit in the face.”
Jordan McNair’s father says he feels like “he’s been punched in the stomach and spit in the face.”
— Amy Jennings (@amyjenningsnews) October 30, 2018
The board of regents ended its four-month-long investigation into the culture of the Maryland’s football program by finding that the university’s leadership shared “responsibility for the failure to supervise” strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, but found no direct link between the dysfunction of the athletic department and football player McNair’s death in June.
“We are not saying people didn’t make mistakes,” board chairman Jim Brady said at the press conference. “We are saying that, despite those mistakes, our judgment is that these individuals are best-placed to immediately carry out the reforms necessary to safeguard the well-being of student-athletes.”
The board also recommended implementing an oversight board that will closely monitor the steps taken to improve the culture within the football program.
But there are some, like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who wonder if it is enough.
“The addition of an oversight board seems to be a positive step, but many will understandably question whether enough has been done to address the serious concerns that exist among many in the College Park community — I am one of them,” Hogan said in a statement.
Durkin will be reinstated immediately, and it is expected he will be on the sidelines for Maryland’s game against Michigan State on Saturday after being on administrative leave since Aug. 11.
In the hours before the board officially released its 198-page report on the culture of the program, it was leaked by several sources that Loh was unhappy with the decision to retain Durkin. In a story published by the Washington Post, Loh explained to the board why the school should not retain the head coach.
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh announces retirement from presidency in June 2019, at the end of the academic year. pic.twitter.com/4V2D2GIo2H
— Danielle Stein (@Danielle_Stein9) October 30, 2018
But the board was clear that keeping Durkin was its top priority, and Loh had “no option” but to keep the head coach “if he wanted to remain in his position,” the newspaper reported.
Loh announced his final day will be June 30, 2019, but also said he and Evans will take the necessary steps to improve the culture of the football program.
“We need to have a football culture that is healthy, that puts the welfare of student-athletes foremost,” Loh said.
Hogan said that the school’s leadership has a responsibility to maintain the university’s high reputation as a “world-class” institution.
“It is incumbent upon the regents, President Loh and the College Park athletic department to build a stronger athletic program where student-athletes are always treated with dignity and respect.
Loh said Evans informed the team that Durkin would be back. According a tweet by the Washington Post’s Emily Giambalvo, several players walked out of a team meeting with Durkin.
We have confirmed that multiple players walked out of DJ Durkin's meeting with the team today.
— Emily Giambalvo (@EmilyGiam) October 30, 2018
Fans of the football program responded with the hashtag “TerpsUp!” on social media in the moments after the board announced its recommendation to keep Durkin, and some added that it was nice to have “their leader” back on the field.
— Jordan Houston (@usmigo) October 30, 2018
When asked about the McNair family’s demands, Brady said the board was “very aware of that.”