Maryland football coach DJ Durkin should remain at the helm of the team, and Athletic Director David Evans should continue to lead that department, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents concluded after two length reviews of the school's football culture and the circumstances that led to the death of player Jordan McNair in June.
The recommendations were made at a press conference in Baltimore Tuesday.
"We believe Coach Durkin has been unfairly blamed," said James Brady, the Chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. Brady said Durkin acknowledged his role in the culture that developed under his tenure.
"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," Brady said. "We also believe he is a young coach at the beginning of his career, and he has much to learn, and he should be given that opportunity ... 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 wellbeing of student-athletes and help them be successful as individuals and as a team.”
At the same press conference, University of Maryland, College Park President David Loh said he will retire at the conclusion of the current academic year. Loh, who took moral responsibility for the death of McNair at a press conference earlier this year, will not face repercussions or removal by the board.
"In August, I said that legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that were made in the diagnosis and treatment of Jordan McNair," laid with him and his administration, Loh said at the press conference. "Today I stand by that statement 100%, and I will do everything possible to fulfill that responsibility."
"For more than eight years I've served as the captain of this ship, not any ship, but the flagship, the flagship for the state of Maryland, with 40,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff, spread over 130 academic and administrative department across campus," Loh said. "It is relatively easy to be the captain of the ship so long as the ship is sailing through calm waters, but eventually that ship may run into the storm.
"I'm focused on helping this great university navigate through the storm," Loh said, "and I will be focused on leading the flagship to great success and a smooth transition."
Loh also voiced his supported for Evans, saying "he is in my judgment one of the finest athletic directors in this country."
The decisions come after roughly two weeks of closed door meetings by the board, reviewing the investigation's findings and drawing their recommendations.
Governor Larry Hogan issued a statement following the press conference, airing some skepticism about the conclusions.
"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's statement said. “It is incumbent upon the regents, President Loh, and the College Park athletic department leadership to build a stronger athletic program where student athletes are always treated with dignity and respect, and to ensure that UMD remains a world-class academic institution that fosters a safe and supportive environment where all students can achieve their dreams.”
“On Oct. 25, the Board of Regents accepted all findings and recommendations that came in the commissioned report," Brady said.
The board accepted all of the commissions findings, including:
- That there was not a "toxic culture" within the football program, but there was a culture where "problems festered."
- Durkin's tenure as coach lacked a "culture of accountability" and oversight, but he wasn't given the proper tools and guidance by university administration
- Durkin and leadership bare responsibility in not supervising Strength and Conditioning Coach Rick Court for his unacceptable behavior with the football team
- University leadership bares some responsibility for the state of the culture that was developed and propagated by the football team
- The school should adopt an independent medical model and become a leader in sports medicine and it's administration
- An independent monitoring group should be established to oversee the implementation of all advised recommendations
Evans issued a statement following the press conference as well, taking responsibility for his failings and saying he is on board with the recommendations.
"Coach Durkin and I both agree that mistakes were made," Evans statement read. "I take responsibility for those mistakes and as Athletic Director, commit to you that we will do more. We have begun to implement every recommendation from the external review, led by sports medicine expert Rod Walters. We will also implement each of the recommendations made by the Commission."
"What happened to Jordan McNair is tragic and heartbreaking," Brady said. "At the same time, the board found no direct link between the administration" and his death.
In a Tuesday afternoon news conference held by the McNair family, they released a statement regarding the news announced by University of Maryland officials. The family's attorney believes that the institution's actions to continue the employment of Coach Durkin is 'callous and is indefensive.'
"The university has an obligation to keep its students safe, and it failed. Coach Court had an obligation to protect Jordan, he failed. Coach Durkin had an obligation to keep his player safe, he failed. And your report so profound, yet he remains. The only person who has paid for those failures is Jordan McNair. And for their outrageous behavior, Jordan paid with his life." said Hassan Murphy.