Board of Regents to assume authority and control over investigation of McNair death

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WMAR) - The University System of Maryland Board of Regents unanimously voted on Friday to assume authority and control over all aspects of the investigation into the tragic death of football player Jordan McNair.

This means that each of the two separate reviews, one regarding McNair's death and one regarding the football culture within the Maryland football program, will now be managed by the Board of Regents and report findings to the Board of Regents as well as to University of Maryland College Park.

The 19-year-old McNair passed away in June, two weeks after suffering from heatstroke during a team workout. The university has accepted legal and moral responsibility for his death.

The University System of Maryland said it will announce additional details about the board’s plans next week. USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady released a statement saying:

“Earlier today, the Board of Regents was fully briefed by UMCP President Wallace Loh about the circumstances of Mr. McNair’s tragic death, about the actions that have been taken since, and finally about the alarming allegations that have emerged in the last week related to the football program. After a long and robust discussion, the board voted unanimously to assume responsibility for the investigations into these two separate issues.  Our goal is to ensure that all system universities, including UMCP, are actively working to protect the health and safety of every student and to foster a supportive culture in which everyone can flourish.”

University of Maryland President Loh issued the following comment:

“We welcome the oversight of the Board of Regents at this critical time. We must thoroughly investigate the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair and understand the allegations of the culture of our football program so that we can ensure the health and well-being of every one of our student-athletes. We will continue to honor Jordan’s life, and we will work with our Board of Regents to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.”

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents met Friday for three hours, 55 minutes.  The meeting took place in a closed session.

The main topic was the University of Maryland football program - the events that led to McNair’s death, updates on the investigation following his passing and allegations of a toxic culture within the program after an ESPN report brought to light alleged bullying and intimidation tactics used by coaches toward their players.

Also on Friday the University of Maryland reacted to a Washington Post report alleging that a year ago University President Wallace Loh nixed recommendations by the athletic department to overhaul the way health care was delivered to student athletes. It was a plan submitted by then Athletics Director Kevin Anderson allegedly aimed at better aligning the school with NCAA recommendations. A plan that followed an independent medical care model.

The school responding with the following statement:

“The University of Maryland has a physician-directed healthcare model, which is widely adopted.

Our licensed athletic training staff are currently supervised by our University of Maryland School of Medicine supervising physician. To avoid conflicts of interest, all physicians who supervise the athletic trainers are employed outside the Athletic Department. Consistent with best practices, our coaches do not have direct responsibility for the hiring or supervision of any member of the sports medicine staff.

The proposal to outsource athletic trainers to another institution was made when our athletic trainers were already supervised by University of Maryland School of Medicine physicians. At the same time,because the trainers were university employees, we retained the ability to make necessary personnel decisions, as we did recently in placing members of our athletic training staff on administrative leave.

The University of Maryland’s commitment to safety is paramount and resolute. We have commissioned an independent expert to assess all of our policies and procedures affecting the health and safety of our student-athletes, and we have already changed our practices based on his preliminary observations and recommendations.”

Dr. Andrew Pollak, Chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said Friday: 

"You cannot draw a line between organizational structure and the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair. 

We share in the commitment to make sure a tragedy like this one never happens again, and we extend our condolences to Jordan's family. We can and will work with the university to implement changes that improve the environment and conditions where student-athletes compete where and athletic trainers provide care." 

The football team continues to practice and prepare for its season opener against Texas on September 1 with head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave.

Athletics Director Damon Evans plans on continuing conversations with parents of current players tomorrow. 

Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter @StepnerWMAR and Facebook

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