Scandals in major college athletics are commonplace. Then there are unconscionable tragedies that defy logic and morality. The death of 19-year-old former University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair is the latter.
Subjected to a severe team training session May 29 at the College Park, Md. campus, overseen by the football program’s strength and conditioning staff, the offensive lineman collapsed into exertional heatstroke after being compelled to run a series of 110-yard wind sprints.
The adults entrusted with the teenager’s care did not tend to him in an appropriate medical manner, including negligently delaying calling 911 after observing McNair clearly in serious physical distress. Almost 40 minutes after the 911 call, McNair arrived at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md., a short drive away from College Park, with a body temperature of 106 degrees. June 13, McNair, who needed an emergency liver transplant, appallingly died.
His death is by the hands of many, starting with University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans. Head football coach D.J. Durkin, who disturbingly is on leave instead of already being terminated, is equally culpable. Thus far, the most prominent head to roll is strength and conditioning coordinator Rick Court, who was forced to resign. None of the men noted in this paragraph should have their jobs at the University of Maryland much longer.
They should all be dismissed after a profound report published by ESPN Aug. 10 uncovered what was described as a “toxic coaching culture under…Durkin.” It was patronizing for Loh and Evans to make a trip to Baltimore last Tuesday to convey to Tonya Wilson and Marty McNair, the parents of Jordan McNair, that the “university accepts legal and moral responsibility” for his death.
Who is the university? Maryland Stadium, where the team’s home games are played? No, Loh and Evans are the university and should have unequivocally said his death is a result of “us not adequately carrying out our responsibilities as caretakers.” Instead, they assumed the expected roles of corporate CEO and CFO, with the first order of business protecting themselves and the Maryland brand.
As always, it’s about economic prosperity, piles of money the University of Maryland has been chasing since the university’s board of regents in 2012 voted to leave the ACC and join the Big Ten. The result was increased pressure to compete with Michigan, Ohio State and the conference’s other powers.
It is why D.J. Durkin, a former Michigan assistant coach was hired. And in large part, it is why a young man who came to the University of Maryland to experience the joy of being a student-athlete died of physical abuse.