Embattled Maryland president Wallace D. Loh received support from an unexpected source Monday night — Jordan McNair’s father.
The statement came a little less than a week after Loh said that the university would accept all “legal and moral responsibility” for the death of the 19-year-old offensive lineman from Randallstown. Jordan McNair died June 13, a little over two weeks after suffering from heatstroke during a team conditioning test in College Park.
In a statement given to ESPN and released by Hassan Murphy, managing partner for the law firm of Murphy, Falcon and Murphy, Martin McNair said: "We have heard rumblings that Dr. Loh is under fire at the university because of his statements accepting responsibility, on behalf of the university, for Jordan's death.
"It would be a complete shame if, after such a display of decency and humanity, Dr. Loh were to be let go. Decency and transparency are the only path forward for our family, the university, and its sports programs to heal and emerge as safe places for families to entrust their children."
McNair added that it was “critical” for Loh to stay in power for that to happen.
“Any notion that the Board of Regents can or should walk back from the acceptance of responsibility, or influence the investigations to water down their findings, would be self-defeating and would undermine the very high bar that Dr. Loh has set for the university and its programs going forward. The tragedy of our son's death cannot and should not be a political football for competing factions or agendas or to settle prior scores," McNair said.
There are two ongoing investigations at Maryland.
The first, conducted by Walters Inc., a South Carolina-based medical consulting firm, is examining the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death and is expected to be finished Sept. 15. The second, by a four-person commission hired last week to investigate an explosive story by ESPN that labeled the environment surrounding the football team’s “toxic culture,” could be done even sooner based on Loh’s statement at a news conference he and athletic director Damon Evans held last week.
Three days after Loh and Evans told the media that they placed the blame for McNair’s death on the mistakes made by the team’s trainers in treating the former McDonogh standout — he did not have his temperature taken and was not given cold water immersion therapy — the university’s Board of Regents took the oversight of the investigations related to the tragedy out of Loh’s hands.
Many media outlets, as well as some prominent boosters, have called for Loh and Evans, as well as third-year coach DJ Durkin, to be fired. McNair and his wife, Tonya, went on “Good Morning America” last week and called for Durkin’s dismissal. Durkin is on administrative leave as the Terps get ready for their Sept. 1 season opener against Texas at FedEx Field in Landover.
The Baltimore Sun and Washington Post also reported last week that Loh rejected a proposal that would have moved the Maryland training staff in College Park under the direction of doctors at the Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, a recommendation that was among the “Good Practices” report the NCAA made in 2016.
Reacting to McNair’s comment, former Maryland and NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said on his nationally syndicated radio Tuesday that both Loh and Evans should exit. While Esiason was sympathetic to the McNair family for the loss of their son, he was critical of the way Loh and Evans reacted to the death as well as to the way their lawyer is using the media, specifically ESPN.
“As a Maryland alumnus, the heartbreak that I share over the McNair’s family tragedy has only been compounded by my disgust with the shameful lack of leadership displayed by university president Wallace Loh and athletic director Damon Evans,” Esiason said. “Last week they finally accepted moral and legal responsibility for McNair’s death. Why did it take them two and a half months for them to do the right thing.
“Sadly, the frustrated McNair family would probably still be waiting for the answers, and the compensation, they richly deserve had they not hired a lawyer who lit a fire by leaking information to ESPN. Loh and Evans are reportedly on shaky ground. This would be a good time for both of them to exit.”
Esiason also commented on the media reports about Maryland declining the opportunity to improve communication by moving the training staff under the umbrella of the medical school.
“Now it’s impossible to determine whether such a change might have enabled the trainers to properly handle McNair’s fatal heat stroke,” Esiason said. “However, treating athletes’ health and safety as an academic political football reflects poorly on Loh and the university.”