Yesterday, Maryland University announced that head football coach D.J. Durkin would be reinstated after one of his players, Jordan McNair, died of heatstroke after collapsing and experiencing seizures during a practice under his watch. The Maryland Board of Regents' shocking decision came after an independent investigation painstakingly detailed what appeared to be a toxic culture, yet was unwilling to label it as such.
Durkin, the Board of Regents, and Athletic Director Damon Evans have since come under fire for what is perceived to be a heartless and unjust reinstatement. There was also reportedly a power struggle between the Regents and University president Wallace Loh over whether to keep Durkin on as coach, and apparently the Regents won. Loh announced he will retire next June.
McNair's family has spoken out against the decision, and several of his teammates have expressed their dismay on social media.
Here's what McNair's parents had to say to USA TODAY:
"I feel like I've been punched in the stomach, and somebody spit in my face," McNair's father, Martin, said.
"I miss my son every day," his mother, Tonya Wilson, added. "And today, it just didn't help."
The attorney for the McNair family called the decision to retain Durkin "callous" and "indefensible" in a statement yesterday, adding:
"Today, the board ratified and validated the heartbreaking actions by Coach Durkin and his staff toward Jordan in May by continuing the employment of the man who failed in his primary responsibility to Jordan," said Murphy, the managing partner of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy. "How can a student-athlete be called a p---y as he is in the early stages of death, dying before their eyes, with no action taken, and yet no one be held accountable?"
The decision to retain Durkin makes up yet another iteration in a hauntingly frequent pattern of universities turning a blind eye to abuses within their programs. With football programs seen as their cash cows, universities often disregard patterns of abuse that don't have explicit legal repercussions. With so much lip service being paid to the fiction of the student athlete and coaches talking about their responsibilities in shaping boys into men, these kinds of decisions should put to rest the idea that college athletics is anything more than a bottom line business.
This was by no means lost on the actual football team, as at least three Maryland players walked out of Durkin's first meeting with the team, according to anonymous sources of the Washington Post. Players also took to social media to voice their disgust with the decision:
Offensive lineman Ellis McKennie was also a teammate of McNair's at McDonogh high school outside of Baltimore. In response to McKennie's tweet, Maryland offensive tackle Tyran Hunt chimed in to underscore the injustice:
Maryland linebacker Tre Watson followed up with McKennie's tweet as well:
Along with Maryland defensive tackle Adam McLean:
The team currently holds a 5-3 record under interim head coach Matt Canada, and have four games left in the regular season. They will more than likely be bowl eligible.
We've yet to see how players will respond in the coming weeks, but it's hard to imagine that they'll remain silent in memory of McNair, and even harder to imagine Durkin can retain any semblance of respect of the whole locker room.