Maryland football coach DJ Durkin has been on leave since August, effectively suspended since ESPN published a report describing a “toxic” culture within his program.
The report alleged systemic emotional abuse of players, including frequent “extreme verbal abuse,” “obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity,” and the use of food as a humiliation device. The report came out after offensive lineman Jordan McNair died in June of heatstroke, after he collapsed at a team workout and didn’t receive proper treatment.
A university commission spent a few months investigating the culture of Durkin’s program. It did not find the program’s culture “toxic.”
The Washington Post published the full report Thursday, including this passage:
The Maryland football team did not have a “toxic culture,” but it did have a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out.
The investigative panel included a couple of retired judges, one former governor, and various Maryland power brokers. They’ve concluded that a culture that makes players too scared to speak out about problems is not a toxic culture.
To make this case, they’ve pulled out a dictionary:
Toxic means “extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.” By definition, Maryland’s football culture was not toxic.
You can judge whether it sounds “harmful” to not have players feel comfortable speaking up about issues that affect them.
More broadly, the report offers all of these conclusions.
Many of them center around Durkin and former strength coach Rick Court, who resigned and reached a settlement with the school after ESPN’s report came out.
- “The players who spoke up—both initially and in response to our investigation—should be commended”
- “During Mr. Durkin’s tenure, the Athletics Department lacked a culture of accountability, did not provide adequate oversight of the football program, and failed to provide Mr. Durkin with the tools, resources, and guidance necessary to support and educate a first-time head coach in a major football conference.”
- “Mr. Court, on too many occasions, acted in a manner inconsistent with the University’s values and basic principles of respect for others.”
- “Both Mr. Durkin and leadership in the Athletics Department share responsibility for the failure to supervise Mr. Court.”
- “The University leadership bears some responsibility for the ongoing dysfunction of the Athletics Department;
- “The Maryland football team did not have a ‘toxic culture,’ but it did have a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out”
- “Maryland should institute a strong “medical model” for student-athlete care to improve health outcomes and ensure that the University is a leader in collegiate sports medicine best practices.”
- “There is common ground to be found amongst all the constituencies we heard from, providing a basis for moving forward together”
A decision on Durkin’s future is expected soon, though not at any exact time. Other top officials at Maryland are also in jeopardy.
Maryland’s gone 4-3 under interim head coach Matt Canada. Durkin’s buyout is a little bit more than $5 million, should the school fire him without cause.
Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, who was serving as interim athletic director at the time of McNair’s collapse and death, later became permanent AD. His future is unclear, as is that of university president Wallace Loh, who’s been sidelined from this investigation.
The University System of Maryland’s board of regents has controlled the investigation and, according to the Post, held out on sharing a copy of the 200-page report with Loh.