The University of Maryland, College Park will launch an external investigation into the football program’s coaching practices in the wake of damning reports about the team’s staff and treatment of players, school President Wallace D. Loh wrote in a letter to the university community Saturday night.
The letter was sent about an hour after third-year football coach DJ Durkin and three other staff members were placed on administrative leave. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been named interim coach, and the team opens its season in less than three weeks.
The school already has hired a sports medicine consulting group, Walters Inc., to investigate the protocols and procedures relating to the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The former McDonogh star was hospitalized May 31 after an offseason workout and died June 13 of what his parents’ attorney said Sunday was heatstroke. The external review is expected to conclude by Sept. 15.
Loh said in the letter Saturday that he was “profoundly disturbed” by media reports of “verbally abusive and intimidating conduct” by Terps coaches and staffers toward team members. An ESPN report quoted former and current players who said, both anonymously and on the record, that staff members bullied them, endorsed unhealthy eating habits, and punished them for not going “past their limit” in strength and conditioning drills.
“Such behaviors contravene the educational mission and core values of our University,” Loh said. “They are unacceptable. They will not be tolerated.”
Loh said he has directed athletic director Damon Evans “to take actions necessary to ensure the safety and success of our student athletes.” The coaching staff’s practices, Loh said, should “reflect — not subvert — the core values of our University.”
“All of our coaches and staff who work with our student athletes are also teachers,” Loh wrote in the letter. “Our responsibility as teachers is to inspire and enable students to perform at their best and expand the boundaries of their potential, in the classroom and/or on the athletic field.”
He added: “The University of Maryland is committed to a football program that is safe and humane, and where our student-athletes are successful in their academic and athletic endeavors. This commitment will be carried out with accountability, fairness, and transparency.”