In the fallout from Jordan McNair’s death, the University of Maryland has parted ways with strength and conditioning coach Rick Court and placed head coach DJ Durkin on paid administrative leave.
Matt Canada, who was hired by Durkin in January, has been promoted from offensive coordinator to interim head coach.
Court, who was hired by Durkin in 2015, sent a resignation letter on Monday addressed to University of Maryland staff which included Durkin and Maryland athletic director Damon Evans.
“As a coach, it is critical for me to live what I strive to instill in my players, which is to be committed to the welfare of the team and to be a good man on and off of the field,” he wrote. “After thoughtful reflection, prayer and support, I have offered my resignation to the University of Maryland.”
McNair, a 19-year-old offensive lineman, died on June 13 after being hospitalized following a workout on May 29. The cause of death was ruled as heatstroke.
During a news conference on Tuesday, University of Maryland president Wallace Loh and Evans accepted responsibility for McNair’s June death.
“Damon and I just got back from Baltimore,” Loh said in his opening statement. “We went there this morning to meet with the parents of Jordan McNair. And I wanted to meet with them in private to express on behalf of the university our apology for their loss of their son. I said to them – and I said I will be mentioning it publicly this afternoon, but I wanted them to hear it directly from me this morning – the university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May the 29th, which of course led subsequently to his death on June 13.”
An ESPN report last week cited that Durkin fostered a “toxic culture” within the football program.
“This is an absolute tragedy and shame for Maryland,” said Montgomery County native Kevin Witt, a University of Maryland graduate, “and does not represent all the alumni and all the great people involved with the Terps.”
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a statement regarding the turmoil within the University of Maryland’s football program.
“In light of deeply troubling reports about the University of Maryland football program’s training practices and general culture, I support the university’s decision to suspend Coach DJ Durkin, and expect that the investigation into the program will be wide-ranging and thorough,” said Hogan. “We must have complete confidence that our student athletes are treated with dignity and respect and that they are supervised and coached responsibly. If the investigation confirms these reports then strong and permanent corrective actions should be taken immediately.”
Evans, who was named athletic director in June, replaced Kevin Anderson who resigned in April after a six-month leave of absence.
Prior to assuming the role of athletic director, Evans had served as Maryland’s executive athletic director since 2016.
During Evans’ tenure in College Park, the Terrapins have had three teams advance to the Final Four and have secured three Big Ten Championships. In that time, the Terrapins have also boasted 26 All-American student-athletes, eight Big Ten Players of the Year, three Big Ten Coaches of the Year and 42 All-Big Ten Honorees.
The situation at the University of Maryland has sparked public debate across the country and the independent review surrounding the circumstances of McNair’s death is ongoing.
“We have already taken immediate steps to put additional safeguards in place for all of our athletic practices and training, not just football,” said Evans. “We have changed how we practice and also how we train our staff. We have specifically changed how we practice in the heat by increasing breaks and adding cooling stations. I have also commissioned a second team of legal and sports experts who will review the recent allegations of unacceptable behaviors in our football program. I want to be clear that I have not witnessed any behavior as what was described in the media but it is essential that we fully review these allegations, and that is why we are conducting an independent third party review led by national leaders.”
Good Counsel head coach Andy Stefanelli, whose son Andrew played at Maryland from 2013-2016, chimed in on the current situation in College Park. Good Counsel alumni Jesse Aniebonam, Tyler Baylor and Ayinde Eley currently play for Maryland.
“Reaction to the initial news, obviously there was the reaction to the death of Jordan McNair which was tragic, but I guess the reaction to the ESPN report of this toxic culture I thought was shocking,” said Stefanelli. “I thought it was frankly overblown. It’s not something I’ve personally overheard from my son or any player that we have at Maryland that played under that coaching staff. It flies in the face of anything I’ve seen. I think a lot of the things that are coming out occur at a lot of college programs and athletic programs across the country, it’s just because of this situation (that has) occurred and that microscope that the staff at Maryland is under that these things are coming out.”
Justin Fitzgerald contributed to this report.