Maryland coach D.J. Durkin placed on leave as review of Jordan McNair's death continues

Maryland’s DJ Durkin has been placed on administrative leave. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The University of Maryland has placed head football coach D.J. Durkin and three members of his support staff on administrative leave as the circumstances of offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death continue to emerge.

The school announced Friday that members of the football staff had been placed on leave, and athletic director Damon Evans announced Saturday that Durkin is one of them. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada will serve as interim head coach.

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Three members of support staff involved in May 29 workout also put on leave

Saturday morning, according to ESPNplayers were informed that those being put on leave are head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson, director of athletic training Steve Nordwall, and assistant athletics director for sports performance Rick Court. 

McNair died of heatstroke on June 13, two weeks after a May 29 workout led by Court at Maryland’s outdoor practice fields. McNair had difficulty standing upright while running a set of ten 110-yard sprints, at the conclusion of which, Robinson is alleged to have yelled “Drag his ass across the field!” Durkin was also on the field at the time of the conditioning workout when McNair was hospitalized.

Maryland’s external review of the circumstances is led by Dr. Rod Walters, a former longtime collegiate athletic trainer; the full review is expected to be made public Sept. 15. Baltimore law firm Murphy, Falcon & Murphy to conducting a separate investigation under the hire of McNair’s family.

News comes after ESPN report on Maryland’s ‘toxic culture’

On Friday, ESPN published an extensive report with quotes from current Maryland football players and others close to the program describing a “toxic” culture established under Durkin, who is entering his third season as head coach. The report also detailed behavior by Court, one of Durkin’s first hires after he was brought to Maryland from Michigan, where he was defensive coordinator.

From ESPN:

Among what [the sources] shared about the program:

    There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. In one example, a player holding a meal while in a meeting had the meal slapped out of his hands in front of the team. At other times, small weights and other objects were thrown in the direction of players when Court was angry.

    The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. In one example, a player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars as he was made to watch teammates working out.

    Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. Players are routinely the targets of obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity when they are unable to complete a workout or weight lift, for example. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.

    Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively; for example, a player said he was forced to overeat or eat to the point of vomiting.

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