Assistant Managing Editor
Do the right thing.
Parents, coaches, and teachers instill this into us from early childhood through the rest of our formative years.
The University of Maryland had the opportunity to do the right thing after the tragic death of Jordan McNair, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle.
McNair died June 13 after complications of heatstroke hospitalized him after a May 29 practice.
Former Terrapins coach DJ Durkin in an interview with ESPN the day before McNair’s funeral said that “his heart is broken.”
When I saw this report, it incensed me.
Not because it is wrong to be grieving over the death of a player, but because this death happened necessarily, in the cruelest of fashions.
I’ve been through two-a-day practices in the heat of the summer.
They are arduous and, in some respects, are harder than the games themselves.
These players are Durkin’s responsibility and for him to allow his strength coaches to push McNair beyond reasonable limits is heinous.
Their job is to push players to inspire them to train, harder, faster and longer than they ever have done in their athletic careers up to that point.
However, there is a difference between training and demanding effort from players, and creating a culture of fear and intimidation.
ESPN reported in August of this year that Durkin had created such a culture around the program.
Allegations of derogatory language, questioning players’ masculinity were common occurrences during training.
That is not leadership. Intimidation, belittlement, abusing players, forcing unhealthy weight gains and weight losses on the developing bodies of young men is not indicative of a winning culture.
It is a sign of a liar, a power-hungry sorry excuse of a man in Durkin and those who supported his culture and his policies are no better.
After an administrative leave that found Durkin and strength coaches and trainers at fault for the death of McNair, the university’s Board of Regents voted to reinstate the coach, not wanting to compromise a public relations campaign the university was engaged in at the time, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun.
Backlash forced the college to rescind its reinstatement of Durkin, but it should have never come to that.
The people on that board should have looked at Durkin and understood that this man was not fit to lead and shape the next generation of men, period. There is no grey area in this case.
This 19-year-old will never graduate, take the field again for a university he ultimately gave his last full measure for, because power-hungry coaches, filled with toxic masculinity, wanted to push the young man beyond humane limits.
However, I do want to credit President Wallace Loh, because, despite the advice of lawyers, he accepted full moral and legal responsibility for McNair’s death and fought the Board of Regents on reinstating Durkin.
That being said, according to the Baltimore Sun, he did receive a letter in 2016 that he should have followed up on, alleging abuses in the football program.
What makes me the angriest about this situation is that this coach may be out of his profession for a few years, but he won’t be banned from the sport from the NCAA.
If McNair had accepted a gift from a booster, for example, he would lose eligibility and place the program under harsh scrutiny.
Pull up the NCAA’s website at ncaa.org, and the first thing that pops up is a headline: “Committed to well-being.”
Click on it and there are three promotional videos, one discussing academics, one on the well-being of athletes and the last on fairness.
Where is the NCAA’s policies well-being in the case of McNair?
The NCAA was silent. Never again do I want to hear the NCAA bring up the student-athlete as their token banner to preserve non-profit status.
It is a hypocrisy, to claim to care about these athletes and in the hour they need advocacy to remain silent.
Fairness is not the NCAA’s goal.
Their goal is to maximize profit by benefiting off of the achievements of athletes.
When Shabazz Napier admitted to CNN four years ago that he was so poor in school, and his practices would run longer than university food services were open, so he would go to bed hungry, it disgusted me.
Jordan McNair is just the latest case in coaches being able to run roughshod over the rules until the worst happens.
His father, Marty, told the Baltimore Sun that when the vote came down to initially reinstate Durkin, it felt “as if someone had punched me in the stomach and spit in my face.”
Mr. McNair and Mrs. McNair, I sympathize and agree with you.
The University of Maryland failed you and your son.
No money in a lawsuit can bring him back, but he should not die in vain.
The NCAA needs to do better and universities need to stand for what they claim to stand for.
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