If it feels as if I’ve been bitching incessantly about the state of big time college sports lately, welp, it’s because I have been. And if you’re figuring on sticking a killjoy label on yours truly, Imma reply with the same line most of these big time coaches would feed you.
Don’t blame me.
D.J. Durkin is the latest big time coach to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Maryland Terrapins head coach is currently on paid administrative leave following allegations that he presided over a “toxic culture” in his brief tenure as field boss at the university. That’s a nuanced way of describing behavior that, in most any other profession, would have landed Durkin in a courtroom by now.
The “toxic culture” included coaching based on fear and intimidation. One of the ring leaders was strength and conditioning coach Rick Court- one of Durkin’s first hires back in 2015. According to sources, Court would target players he deemed ‘soft’, after which he verbally and in some cases, physically assaulted them. When they wanted a player to lose weight, they ordered him to watch his teammates work out while he was forced to eat candy bars. When they wanted another player to gain weight, they forced him to eat to the point of vomiting. One player was even chastised for passing out during a drill.
Durkin was hired less than three years ago for his supposed ability to lead young men. Jordan McNair-a red-shirt freshman- was one of those young men. The offensive lineman turned down an offer by the Alabama Crimson Tide because he wanted to play close to home. He was described as an extremely talented player who worked hard at getting better. A humble and friendly kid, he was nineteen years old.
On May 29th, McNair collapsed on a practice field at the University of Maryland. Evidence suggests that McNair was showing signs of heatstroke during 110-yard sprints, and that forty five minutes into the drills, he collapsed. This is when Coach Durkin and his staff were supposed to behave like leaders instead of gulag commanders. This is when they should have begun the process of cooling McNair’s body temperature down. This is when someone should have been calling 911. None of these things happened.
One hour passed before a call was made to 911. When McNair was admitted to a local hospital an hour and a half after collapsing on the practice field, his body temperature was recorded at 106. He was airlifted to a shock trauma center later that night. Less than a week later, McNair received a liver transplant. On June 13th, the humble, hard working kid with the big smile was dead.
At a press conference the day after McNair’s death, Coach Durkin said it wasn’t “reasonable that a nineteen year old should pass away,” while conveniently ignoring the fact that he and his coaching staff might have been the reason.
Durkin seemed initially receptive to changing up the culture of his program, but several players claim that it was business as usual once preseason camp opened earlier this month. And then last week, Durkin and several members of his staff were placed on paid administrative leave. Almost two months after failing a young man they had been entrusted with.
That it took two months to arrive here is pathetic. That Durkin and his staff will not be charged with a crime is incomprehensible. And that South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp defended the indefensible is beyond insulting.
Muschamp came to the defense of Durkin at a press conference recently in which he described his former assistant at Florida as being above reproach. In the world according to Will, we should be angry at all the “gutless” unnamed sources in the Maryland scandal and not scumbags like Durkin and Court.
Never once in that tirade did Muschamp mention Jordan McNair.