“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.