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Maryland places football coach DJ Durkin on leave amid reports of program's toxic culture

Maryland head coach DJ Durkin watches the first half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State in College Park, Md., Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The University of Maryland placed football coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave effective immediately Saturday amid reports of a toxic culture within the program.

In a letter, Maryland athletic director Damon Evans wrote he was “extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports. We are committed to fully investigating the program.”

Evans added that new offensive coordinator Matt Canada – who was hired by the school in January – will serve as interim head coach.

The decision to place Durkin on leave comes after an ESPN story – citing current players, former players and staff members – was published Friday accusing Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court of verbally abusing and humiliating players.

The Associated Press reported earlier Saturday that Court had been placed on administrative leave.

A school spokesperson said Friday that staffers were placed on leave after the university commissioned an external review of the procedures and protocols surrounding athletes’ health and safety following the death of football player Jordan McNair’s death in June. They will remain on leave pending the outcome of the review.

The members of the athletic staff were not identified.

Evans reiterated the school’s statement Friday that an external review of McNair’s death is ongoing.

“We have committed to releasing publicly the report being prepared by an independent and national expert,” Evans wrote.

McNair, a 19-year-old offensive lineman from Randallstown, Maryland, died on June 13 more than two weeks after he was hospitalized following a May 29 team workout. He remained hospitalized up until his death.

According to McNair’s parents, their son died of a heatstroke. New details from ESPN on Friday said McNair suffered a seizure around 5 p.m. following a sprint before a 911 call was made around 5:58 p.m.

McNair was transported to Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park before he was soon taken to Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. His body temperature was 106 degrees when he arrived at the hospital.

Maryland opens the season Sept. 1 against Texas at FedEx Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET.


Evans' full letter:

Dear Terps,

I am extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports. We are committed to fully investigating the program.

At this time, the best decision for our football program is to place Maryland Head Football Coach DJ Durkin on leave so we can properly review the culture of the program. This is effective immediately. Matt Canada will serve as interim head coach.

The external review into the tragic death of Jordan McNair continues, and we have committed to releasing publicly the report being prepared by an independent and national expert.

The safety and well-being of our student-athletes is our highest priority. These alleged behaviors are not consistent with the values I expect all of our staff to adhere to and we must do better.

You will be hearing from me as our work continues to rebuild the culture of respect in our football program.


Statement from University of Maryland president Wallace D. Loh:

"I am profoundly disturbed by media reports of intimidating conduct by Maryland football coaches and staff. Today, AD Damon Evans has placed Head Football Coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave while a comprehensive examination is conducted"


Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement on Maryland’s decision to place Durkin on administrative leave:

"In light of deeply troubling reports about the University of Maryland football program’s training practices and general culture, I support the university’s decision to suspend Coach DJ Durkin, and expect that the investigation into the program will be wide-ranging and thorough. We must have complete confidence that our student athletes are treated with dignity and respect and that they are supervised and coached responsibly.

“If the investigation confirms these reports, then strong and permanent corrective actions should be taken immediately.”

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