University of Maryland announces review of athletic training protocol and football culture

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - After meeting with the parents of Jordan McNair, the University of Maryland football player who died of heat stroke in June, University President Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans expressed their deep regrets to the family, taking responsibility for factors that contributed to McNair’s death and announcing the formation of a counsel to review protocol and procedures that would ensure such an incident does not happen again.

McNair collapsed during a May 29 practice and died at R. Crowley Adams Shock Trauma Unit in Baltimore 15 days later. The Randallstown native played high school football at McDonogh. He was 19 when he died.

“The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful work out day on May the 29th, which of course led subsequently to his death on June 13,” Loh said. “I explained to the parents that we have retained a very, an expert team of sports medicine and physical athletics training personnel to do a thorough review of the circumstances and the facts of that case as well as the protocols and procedures.”

Loh expects the review to be finished by mid-September, at which point he will share the findings privately with McNair’s family before they are released publicly.  

“The university owes you an apology. You entrusted Jordan to our care, and he is never returning home again,” Loh said, referring to his conversation with McNair's family. “Nothing that we can do can bring closure to their enormous loss, but I made this commitment to the parents this morning. … That no Maryland student athlete will ever be in the situation where his or her life and safety will be at risk, especially when that risk is foreseeable. I made that commitment to them. I’m making it now to all of the student athletes at our university and all the people of Maryland.”

Loh specifically criticized the actions of the athletic training staff, not the coaches, in contributing to McNair’s death.

“We have learned that Jordan did not receive appropriate medical care and mistakes were made by some of the athletic training personnel,” Evans said. The proper Emergency Response Plan was not followed. Care wasn’t consistent with best practices. The heat-related illness was not properly treated as staff didn’t take McNair’s temperature nor utilize cold water treatment, submerging him in an ice bath in an attempt to rapidly bring down his internal temperature.  

Evans said as a result, the school has changed how it handles athletic practices in the heat, taking more water breaks and deploying cooling stations. Practices and protocols of athletic training staff will also be reviewed to make sure a similar situation does not develop again. 

McNair's family released a statement through the law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, regard Loh's public comments.

Marty and Tonya McNair appreciate that President Wallace Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans met with them today to again offer their condolences and to accept “legal and moral” responsibility for Jordon’s death.  While Marty and Tonya will never get another day with Jordan, Dr. Loh’s words were meaningful to them and give them some comfort that he will put the University on the path to change the culture of the program so that no Terrapin family will have to endure the heartache and grief that they feel. 

Rick Scott, the head strength & conditioning coach for the football program, resigned Monday. He released a statement on Twitter following the resignation.

Maryland suspended head coach DJ Durkin, along with three other members of his staff, Monday following an ESPN report that detailed a culture of intimidation and harassment of the program. McNair's family said they think Durkin should be fired.

“Make no mistake, we will not tolerate any behavior from any employee that is detrimental to the mental or physical well being of our student athletes,” Evans said. “There is nothing more important that our student athletes' safety.”

Loh said he heard many concerns following the media reports, but wanted to make sure any action taken would adhere to university values.

READ MORE: Students react to report detailing University of Maryland football's "toxic culture"

“We are guided by certain key values,” Loh said. “Accountability of all employees, of transparency, and yes of fair process.”

The university will form a four-person counsel to review the football program, Loh said. The panel will work swiftly to make an evaluation and share its findings publicly.

“This is not going to take forever. This is going to be an expedited, yet very careful review," Loh said. "“We will do everything possible that the situation Jordan McNair found himself in will never happen again. If we succeed, and I expect we will, we will always keep alive the legacy of Jordan McNair.”

READ MORE: Foundation created in memory of late UMD football player

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