Maryland’s president felt a need to work the refs he charged with investigating the death of Jordan McNair.
A day after he addressed reporters, Loh sent an email to his three new commission members, as well as a handful of school officials, laying out the assignment. He told them “to interview a sufficiently large sample of current and former players, their parents, athletics staff , and any other relevant stakeholders, in order to make an assessment on whether the relatively few (but deeply troubling) cases of alleged ‘abuse,’ reported anonymously in the media, indicate the existence of a widespread ‘toxic culture’ . . . or, do these reported cases represent only a small portion of the population of football players, present and past.”
Loh told the members that “arguably, a hyper-masculine and insular culture is the norm, rather than the exception, in college football.” Furthermore, he advised them that “some of the alleged verbally abusive or demeaning behaviors probably occur in every football program. It is part of the ‘football culture.’ There is, of course, an imprecise line between training practices that aggressively push players to the limit and are acceptable, and practices that most reasonable persons would deem to be physical and/or emotional abusive conduct.’”
Note two things about that — first, the commission is not tasked with delving into McNair’s death specifically, but is asked instead to inquire into the broader topic of “football culture”, whatever the hell that is, and, second, to set that inquiry in the overall context of college football, rather than simply looking at what happened at the school. A cynic might be forgiven for believing that to be an attempt at muddying the waters.
Interestingly enough, Maryland’s board of regents stepped forward soon afterwards.
Almost immediately after the commission’s unveiling, the University System of Maryland’s board of regents took control from the College Park campus, adding five additional members to the three named by Loh and suggesting that key decisions about the football program’s future would be made by the regents, not necessarily the school president.
The direction of the commission may have changed, too.
The commission’s review is expected to also look at the actions of other prominent coaches and staff members, including Damon Evans, who was promoted to athletic director less than two weeks after McNair’s death. Loh, too, could find himself scrutinized by one or both of the external probes. He nixed a plan recommended by the school’s athletic director to fundamentally change the way athletes receive medical treatment and athletic training less than a year before McNair died.
Sounds like this is going to get messy.