DJ Durkin Reinstated as Maryland Football Coach After Review of Program

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 14:  Head Coach DJ Durkin of the Maryland Terrapins watches the teams warm up before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats on October 14, 2017 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

Maryland Terrapins head football coach DJ Durkin was reinstated Tuesday after being placed on administrative leave in August amid an investigation into an alleged "toxic" culture within the program.

Rick Maese of the Washington Post first reported Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans both received recommendations from the University System of Maryland Board of Regents to return despite objections from president Wallace D. Loh, who will now retire in June.

"It was made clear that if he wanted to remain in his position, he had no option [but to reinstate Durkin]," a source told Maese. "He ultimately felt it would've been tremendously disruptive to the entire campus if he was to be terminated simply because he wouldn't put the coach back on the field."

The source added the board couldn't make a final ruling on the coach's fate but made it clear to Loh that allowing Durkin to coach again was their "highest priority."

Emily Giambalvo of the Washington Post provided statements from Durkin and Evans:

Emily Giambalvo @EmilyGiam

Maryland athletics just released these statements from AD Damon Evans and head football coach DJ Durkin https://t.co/XP0svR8pwS

Loh announced in a news conference later Tuesday he'd accepted to board's recommendation to reinstate Durkin and Evans, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. He didn't mention the coach by name, though:

Adam Rittenberg @ESPNRittenberg

Wallace Loh concludes his remarks without mentioning DJ Durkin once #Maryland

Board of Regents chairman James Brady affirmed the group's support of the Terps coach.

"We believe Coach Durkin has been unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department," Brady said.

He added: "We believe Evans should be given the opportunity to lead the athletic department."

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported three Maryland players walked out of a team meeting with Durkin about the situation.

The Maryland Student Government Association is organizing a rally to protest the decision, per Giambalvo.

An Aug. 10 report from ESPN.com's Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Tom VanHaaren, based on interviews with multiple sources close to the program, alleged Durkin, 40, created a "coaching environment based on fear and intimidation" that featured "extreme verbal abuse of players."

"I would never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there," a former Maryland staff member told ESPN.com.

Evans released a statement one day after the report announcing Durkin was being placed on leave while "fully investigating the program." He also noted the school continued to review the June 13 death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

"The safety and well-being of our student-athletes is our highest priority," Evans said. "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."

McNair suffered heatstroke during a May 29 Terps offseason workout and died two weeks later after collapsing and being hospitalized, per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun.

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

Loh told reporters Aug. 14 the school informed the McNair family it "accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes" that led to his death. The university also accepted the resignation of assistant athletic director for sports performance Rick Court.

In mid-October, Auerbach reported a group of football players' parents had bonded together in an effort to keep Durkin from returning to the Terps.

"We are worried that this narcissistic sociopath is going to come back," one parent told Auerbach. "To me, he should never coach again."

McNair's family and legal representation held a press conference later Tuesday in response to the school's announcement.

Hassan Murphy, the family's attorney, said Maryland "failed" in its decision, per Rittenberg.

"How can a student-athlete be called a p---y as he is in the early stages of death, dying before their eyes, with no action taken, and yet no one be held accountable? The university had an obligation to keep its students safe, and it failed," Murphy said.

Martin McNair, the former Terrapins lineman's father, added: "I feel like I've been punched in the stomach and someone spit in my face," according to Tom Schad of USA Today.

Maryland offensive linemen Ellis McKennie and Tyran Hunt echoed that sentiment: 

Ellis McKennie @emck_cubed97

Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate. Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right. https://t.co/AaZVmLGTtS

Tyran Hunt @tyranjhunt

At the end of the day, a YOUNG life was lost. My brother, teammate. And to boil it down to even horrific matters, a paycheck was chosen over that life. Through whatever and forever, I live for Jordan Martin McNair. https://t.co/YX18QH6Pl5

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada was named interim head coach when Durkin was placed on leave. The Terps own a 5-3 record, including a 3-2 mark in Big Ten play, so far in 2018.

Durkin has posted a 10-15 record across two years at Maryland. It's unclear when he'll return to the sideline after being granted clearance Tuesday.