It has been a tragic offseason for Maryland Terrapins football, one many would like to soon forget but never will. The death of Jordan McNair has shook the program, and the university, to its core, and now everyone is trying to sort it all out.
McNair, a 19-year-old offensive lineman, passed away two weeks after being hospitalized following a May 29 workout. ESPN reported McNair collapsed after running 110-yard sprints and died of a heatstroke suffered during the workout. McNair had a body temperature of 106 degrees after being taken to the hospital.
In the wake of the stunning and tragic death in College Park, Maryland, an investigation into the “toxic culture” of the Terrapins program has put several members of the athletic staff on administrative leave, including football head coach DJ Durkin.
On Tuesday, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans met with McNair’s parents to apologize for “the mistakes made in the care of their son.”
Here is a letter from Loh:
Dear University of Maryland community,
Today, Athletic Director Damon Evans and I met with the parents of Jordan McNair, a 19-year old lineman on our football team, who died in the aftermath of a workout on May 29. On behalf of the University, I apologized to them. They entrusted their son to us, and he did not return home.
An external sports medicine and athletic training expert is conducting a comprehensive review of the circumstances in this case, as well as of the policies and protocols followed by our certified athletic trainers in preventing, recognizing, and treating heat-related illness. The full report is expected to be completed by mid-September. It will be made public.
However, based on the expert’s preliminary observations thus far, we know that the care provided to Jordan was not consistent with best practices. Also, our trainers did not implement appropriately the emergency action plan, misdiagnosed the severity of Jordan’s initial symptoms, did not assess vital signs, and did not promptly and properly treat for exertional heat illness.
These were mistakes on the part of some of the athletic training staff. The University accepts legal and moral responsibility for these mistakes.
Under the guidance of the experts leading our investigation, we have taken immediate steps to put additional safeguards in place for all of our athletic practices and training, not just football.
I made a commitment to Jordan’s parents. I want to make the same commitment to the parents of all of our student-athletes, and to our entire campus community:
We will do everything within our power to ensure that no University of Maryland student-athlete is ever again put in a situation where his or her safety and life are at foreseeable risk.
The final report will recommend additional actions to make sure that our athletic programs are as safe as possible for all student-athletes. The implementation of these actions is one of the ways we will honor the legacy of Jordan.
I take very seriously the allegations reported in the media about the culture of our football program, citing instances of alleged intimidation and humiliation as ways to “toughen up” players. I am also mindful of other published reports in which some Maryland football players disagree with this portrayal of the program.
My office is usually informed via formal and informal ways of important issues or concerns. In this instance, upon learning of these allegations in the media, my senior staff and I acted upon them.
The University is committed to accountability, transparency and fairness. Athletic Director Evans promptly placed some Athletics personnel on administrative leave. Today, I am announcing a commission to conduct a full and expeditious review of the reported allegations of the conduct of the football staff and of the football program climate.
This commission is comprised of:
• Ben Legg, retired Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for Maryland.
• Alex Williams, retired Judge, U.S. District Court for Maryland and former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney.
• Charlie Scheeler, senior counsel, DLA Piper; former prosecutor, U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland; lead counsel, investigation of steroid use in Major League Baseball; monitor of Penn State’s compliance under its Athletics Integrity Agreement with the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference.
• A retired and respected football coach and athletic administrator from outside the University, to be named soon.
The commission will interview student-athletes, their parents, staff, and other stakeholders in a manner that ensures confidential and candid responses.
We want a thriving and competitive football program that reflects the University’s core values: the safety and welfare of student-athletes, and their success in the classroom, on the gridiron, and in life.
We will not countenance behaviors that are inconsistent with these values. We will take appropriate and decisive action, based upon the findings and recommendations of this commission and other information as it is made available to us.
Thank you for your continuing support of Maryland Athletics.
Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland
Additionally, the school reached a financial settlement with Maryland strength coach Rick Court.
The settlement is for the former coach, who resigned Monday, to receive $315,000, which is approximately two-thirds of what he was due on the remainder of his contract, according to Yahoo! Sports reporter Pete Thamel.
Soon after, Court released a letter of his own to the Terrapins community.
A lot more can happen between now and the September 1 opener against Texas, especially with the uncertain futures of Durkin and other football staff members as they remain on leave pending the external review, but Maryland has accepted the “legal and moral responsibility” for McNair’s death, and all anyone can do is wait for the next course of action while the family and community still mourns.