A finer mess

“There will be no third chance for any of those involved to get this right,” said board chair James T. Brady at a news conference Tuesday.

Third chance? Third chance??? You mean you get a repeat when you kill a player? Someone, please, shake this man by the hair until the cotton falls out of his ears.

—  Sally Jenkins, Washington Post, 10/31/18

Consider it done, Sally.

In the face of mounting outrage and pressure from state lawmakers, students and the community, the University of Maryland fired football coach DJ Durkin on Wednesday, one day after allowing him to return to his position.

In a letter to the university community, Wallace D. Loh, the president of the College Park campus, announced the decision, which directly defies a recommendation made by the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents on Tuesday afternoon.

Athletic Director Damon Evans informed Durkin of his ouster following the Terps’ practice Wednesday and then met with the entire team to inform players.

What a colossal cock-up.  But don’t weep for DJ Durkin, friends.  Unlike the kid who died on his watch, he’s doing okay.

A person familiar with the situation said Durkin was not fired for cause and that the school intends to buy him out of his contract. Durkin was in the third year of a five-year deal and is owed roughly $5.5 million.

That’s a result virtually guaranteed by the investigative report Brady’s board commissioned.  That may not be all that’s guaranteed, either.

Durkin, however, is likely upset or enraged by his firing, particularly after being reinstated a day earlier. These feelings could motivate Durkin to sue the school. Before turning to Durkin’s potential claims against Maryland, it’s important to note that Durkin and Maryland do not appear to have signed a severance agreement, a non-disclosure agreement or a non-disparagement agreement. If they had signed such an agreement as part of his termination, Maryland would likely have agreed to pay Durkin some amount of money in exchange for him relinquishing possible legal claims against the school and its leaders. Such an agreement would also obligate Durkin to not disparage the school or its leaders.

After all, what’s the point of doing something badly, if you can’t do it in haste?

Bottom line here is that the lack of thought that went into this entire botched process is… well, I’d call it unbelievable, except that we’re talking about college athletics management here, so perhaps I should rein in the adjectives a bit.  Let’s just say embarrassing.

Anyway, for the regents to think they could strong-arm Loh and not face any negative public reaction for their decision to put Durkin back in charge of the football program was nothing short of blind arrogance.  Once Loh announced his resignation, what leverage they had on him was gone.  With that, it was quickly determined that there existed zero support for their position.

The risk they run at this point is that there’s still a crowd that’s looking for blood, so to speak.  In that light, this probably isn’t good news for Brady and his bunch.

State and federal power brokers, particularly, amplified the pressure that had been heaped on the board in the previous 24 hours. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D- Md.), for example, echoed the sentiments expressed by many, saying he didn’t “understand how the coach remains and the president is basically asked to leave.”

To that end, in Annapolis, state legislators called a Nov. 15 hearing to hold the regents to account.

I’m sure that will end well.

In the meantime, don’t expect things to end any better for Loh and Damon Evans.  Sure, Loh is being lionized for overruling the regents after a day of having his ears blasted.  He also deserves some credit for warning the regents beforehand about the consequences of their decision.

… Multiple people familiar with the situation said he was strongly against the board of regents’ recommendation to allow Durkin back in the first place. Loh had met with the board in person last Friday, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting, and laid out his concerns about the possibility of Durkin returning.

“In the meeting he told the board that all hell would break loose,” the person said. “He told the board it would be serious problem with the campus community and the public at large, but they were bound and determined that [Durkin] come back. They basically put a gun to his head and threatened him saying if he wouldn’t do it, they’d find a president who would.”

But before he’s elevated to sainthood, let’s not forget that his first instinct was to back the regents’ play.  Even worse, let’s also not forget that Durkin did ask for full time doctors to be present to monitor players’ health and that Loh shot that down, citing cost considerations.  He also resisted changing the way the training staff was directed.  There’s a reason the school has taken responsibility for McNair’s death and Loh is part of that.

I’ve already posted indications that Evans is going to be blamed for some of this fiasco.  He’s an easy target when the inevitable housecleaning comes.  And when it does, that’ll be some resume he’s compiled.

There are no winners in this sad story, just victims and assholes, and in the end, most of the assholes will still be compensated.  In short, another day in the life of college football.


UPDATE:  Jesus, these people.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents recommended this week that the College Park campus retain the athletic trainers who have drawn the bulk of the blame for failing to properly treat Jordan McNair during a May workout, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The regents should be shamed from appearing in polite society.


Filed under Big Ten Football

18 responses to “A finer mess

  1. Scotty Gadlin

    “There are no winners in this sad story, just victims and assholes, and in the end, most of the assholes will still be compensated. ”

    No truer words have ever been spoken

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MDDawg

    I’m amazed that the Board of Regents thought this would end any other way. Then again this is the same bunch that believed there wasn’t a toxic culture even though players were too afraid to speak out.


  3. Down island way

    Is it college football Bluto or plain old bad management and the thought process that the “board” is all knowing, all powerful……or does the HC have the photos of board members in the barn with some innocent farm animals, $$$$$$$.


  4. ASEF

    For the BoRs perspective, just look at those stories about the boosters blaming Jordan and the media. And the guy who got kicked off the team plane.

    Those guys weren’t aberrations. That’s how they see this mess.


  5. sniffer

    After all, what’s the point of doing something badly, if you can’t do it in haste?

    That’s gold, Jerry. And now it’s mine. Thanks, Honorable Gentleman from Georgia.


  6. Hogbody Spradlin

    Gee, ya think they misjudged public reaction when they first decided to let Durkin stay?
    Also, ya mean they didn’t even ask Durkin for a release? They had a fair to good case for cause. Oh well, haste makes waste.


    • ASEF

      Can’t wait for Durkin’s lawsuit against Maryland claiming they damaged his career, with damages being a P5 coaching salary multiplied by a few decades,

      I mean, they produced a report that in their own words blames the university and exonerates DJ.

      It’s just so laughably stupid. Except it’s not exactly a laughing matter.


  7. ChiliDawg

    Looking forward to the house cleaning of the Board of Regents. I posted the other day after the announcement that they were re-instating him how long I wondered it would be before the Governor got involved, turns out it was almost immediately.

    What a bunch of maroons.


  8. atlasshrugged55

    Given your last sentence Senator, ” In short, another day in the life of college football.”, it makes me question my support of college athletics. Why should I willingly give my $ to perpetuate a system so lacking in integrity & common-sense decency?

    I’ve been having those struggles since UGA began their money grab at the end of last season to allow me to purchase post-season tickets. Those in power have no shame.


    • You’re preaching to the choir there, brother.

      Imagine what it’s like to blog about this kind of crap on a regular basis.


    • Anonymous

      I have not nor will I ever donate any money to the Athletic Department. I leave that for the liquor barons. Donate your money to the academic side of things. One of the University’s highest priorities is to grown the Georgia Access Scholarship Endowment. The goal for this endowment is to be able to fund 100% of financial need for all students. Last year, more than 200 scholarships were created for perpetuity.


  9. AusDawg85

    You look at this list of their BOR and see a pretty respectable and diverse group of folks including at least a couple from the medical community. One can only guess that the actual facts found in the investigation led them down a path with tunnel vision that exonerated DJ Durkin’s role, but it simply begs the question…how could they so completely miss the optics on this? As a public institution I hope we eventually see the report and deliberations so others can learn from such an incredibly failed process. A young man is dead who shouldn’t be…needn’t be…and no one wants to step forward and admit something went terribly wrong on their watch.



  10. Tronan

    I don’t know if the UMD athletic department is uniquely mismanaged – incompetence seems to be the norm in its peer group – but it obviously has been very poorly managed for years and its problems are very public. It joined the Big Integer in the first place because it supposedly was up to its eyeballs in debt when it left the ACC. Financial mismanagement seems quaint compared to this whole sorry Durkin saga.


  11. Texas Dawg

    If you were to give a lecture on how to totally screw up a situation, this fiasco would be prime example number one.


  12. Cousin Eddie

    So instead of “Durkin did ask for full time doctors to be present to monitor players’ health and that Loh shot that down, citing cost considerations,” this happening which could have saved a life and prevented all this from happening the school is going to give Durkin roughly $5.5 mil to basically not kill anyone else under his management.
    Wow, I new Drs. made bank but more than the total cost of all this plus the $5.5 mil.
    Way to Manage a department that flows money like, as to quote Saban, Shit through a tin horn.”


  13. Anonymous

    It is hard to imagine that everyone from the coaching staff, Athletic Department, University Administration, and the Board of Reagents could cock this up so badly. Yesterday I posted my wonderment of how the events there would affect the University as an academic institution. This just makes it even worse. I used Missouri as the example. They went from USNWR #45 public / #99 overall in 2015 to #61 public / #129 overall for 2019. They and a drop in enrollment over 2100. Let’s see how #22 pubic / #64 overall is doing in 2022.