Toxic Culture, Verbal Abuse Outlined in ESPN Report About Maryland Football Team

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2018

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)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

In a report published by ESPN's Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Tom VanHaaren on Friday, it was alleged by current and former players and staffers that the Maryland Terrapins football team is surrounded by a "toxic culture" under head coach D.J. Durkin.

The report comes after Dinich spoke to sources close to the team who said that offensive lineman Jordan McNair showed signs of extreme exhaustion before collapsing during a May 29 workout. McNair died two weeks later at the age of 19.

The University announced Friday that it has placed athletics staff members on administrative leave as it awaits the outcome of its external review regarding McNair's death and the culture surrounding the program.

Per the report, some close to the team said there is an "environment based on fear and intimidation" with regard to Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court.

Belittling or humiliating players and verbal abuse are reportedly commonplace within the program.

Specific incidents were relayed to ESPN by sources, including a player having a meal slapped out of his hands and a player who coaches wanted to lose weight being forced to eat candy bars while watching his teammates work out.

Another player was reportedly forced to eat until he vomited.

Players who are unable to complete a workout or finish a weight lift have reportedly been berated and had their masculinity questioned as well.

One former Maryland staff member said, "I would never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there."

Another former staff member identified Court—who Durkin hired in 2015—as Durkin's confidant.

A source said Durkin and Court are "joined at the hip," and a current player added, "I would say Court is as much responsible for the culture as Durkin."

On May 29, McNair reportedly suffered a seizure 45 minutes into a workout, which featured him running 110-yard sprints.

Trainers reportedly tried to help McNair walk after he collapsed. The McNair family has hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into whether the situation was handled properly.

One current Maryland player said, "It shows a cultural problem that Jordan knew that if he stopped, they would challenge his manhood, he would be targeted. He had to go until he couldn't."

Maryland is also holding an internal investigation led by Dr. Rod Walters. While Maryland players were supposed to be able to be interviewed anonymously, some players told ESPN that there was a sign-up sheet that could be seen, and coaches could walk by at any time they were being interviewed.

One player said, "They're singling us out even more when it's supposed to be an anonymous investigation."

More players are expected to interview next week.

After five years as an assistant at Florida and one season as the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Durkin was hired by Maryland in 2015.

Over two seasons, the 40-year-old Durkin owns a 10-15 record, including a 4-8 mark in 2017.