The University System of Maryland’s governing board is assuming control over an investigation into the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair.
During a four-hour closed meeting Friday, the Board of Regents unanimously voted to take over a pair of university-ordered reviews: one examining the football team’s allegedly toxic culture and the other analyzing actions by university officials related to the 19-year-old offensive lineman’s death.
“After a long and robust discussion, the board voted unanimously to assume responsibility for the investigations into these two separate issues,” said board chair James Brady, a former Arthur Andersen executive and Maryland economic development secretary. “Our goal is to ensure that all system universities, including [the University of Maryland College Park,] are actively working to protect the health and safety of every student and to foster a supportive culture in which everyone can flourish.”
The meeting was held in closed session to allow the governing board to confidentially discuss personnel and legal matters. The board has asked the Office of the Attorney General to represent the state flagship, along with the university system, on any legal claims related to McNair’s death.
His parents have hired prominent Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy to represent them.
McNair, a former McDonogh School standout, collapsed during a team workout May 29. He died of heatstroke about two weeks later.
University President Wallace Loh said this week that the school would take “legal and moral responsibility” for mistakes in treating him. The university’s athletic training staff did not take McNair’s temperature and did not use a cold-water immersion treatment, a technique that researchers say has a 100 percent success rate for those suffering heatstroke when done correctly.
In a statement Friday, Loh said he welcomed the regents’ oversight. He participated in the regents’ meeting via conference call earlier in the day.
“We must thoroughly investigate the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair and understand the allegations of the culture of our football program so that we can ensure the health and well-being of every one of our student-athletes,” he said. “We will continue to honor Jordan’s life, and we will work with our Board of Regents to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.”
Shortly after McNair’s death, the university hired sports medicine consulting group Walters Inc. to conduct an investigation of the protocols and procedures related to McNair’s death. That final report is expected by Sept. 15.
Following explosive reports describing a toxic environment on the football team, Loh pledged a separate review. He said the university is convening a four-person commission to investigate the organization’s culture. Both reviews will now be overseen by the regents, and findings will be presented both to the regents and University of Maryland officials.
The university system plans to announce additional details about the board’s plans next week.
Gov. Larry Hogan said he’s spoken with the Board of Regents chair, and is receiving regular updates, but does not want to interfere with the investigation. He emphasized that the governing body needs to oversee a thorough investigation as quickly as possible.
“I have confidence in the people we appointed that they’re going to get to the bottom of it and find out who’s responsible,” Hogan said. “We don’t know where the buck stops but we’re going to find out.”
In the aftermath of McNair’s death and subsequent reports, Maryland football coach DJ Durkin and three of his staff members were placed on administrative leave. Strength and conditioning coach Rick Court has since resigned.
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.