Football has been in the news lately, and not just on the sports pages. On the more local front, the Carroll County Youth Football and Cheer League has made an arbitrary and puzzling decision to bar one organization from participating in the league playoffs. The Reisterstown Mustangs organization had very successful seasons in all age groups and were anticipating playing for championships but were declared unwelcome by the leagues hierarchy. Could it be that the Mustangs field predominately black teams? The only communication from the CCYFCL on the matter states that there were “behavioral concerns” and a “risk of safety of the participants.” As Desi used to say to Lucy on that old TV show, “You got some 'splainin' to do.”

The larger story, which has garnered much national attention, concerns the aftermath of the death of Jordan McNair of the University of Maryland football team.


Following McNair's death, University President Wallace Loh, announced that the university took “full legal and moral responsibility” for the young man's death. He then authorized two seperate investigations into the tragedy.

The first, undertaken by the Walters group, was charged with determining what happened from the medical standpoint and developing recommendations for improvements in that area. Most, if not all, of the Walters recommended changes have been, or are in the process of being implemented.

The second investigation was to determine if there was a “toxic culture” within the football program as was charged in an ESPN The Magazine report. The finding of the investigative committee were released just about a week ago to the university system's Board of Regents, who met several times to come to a conclusion on that question. After the series of meetings, the board determined that although there was “dysfunction” and a “culture where problems festered,” head coach D.J. Durkin was reinstated and athletic director, Damon Evans, was allowed to keep his position.

This decision brought on an almost universal negative reaction from politicians, media commentators, alums of the school and many other quarters. One of the talking heads on TV posed a good question during a discussion on the reinstatement of Durkin. He asked “what parent in their right mind would listen to the coach promise to take care of their son, believe him and send the boy off to play football at Maryland?”

One day later, President Loh did what he recommended of the Board of Regents and fired Durkin. Durkin was fired “without cause,” meaning that the university is on the hook for a large portion of his salary for the remaining years on his contract. This begs one question for me. Why wasn't the firing done for cause? A young man died on his watch. Isn't that reason cause enough to be dismissed and not have to continue paying him? Also, shouldn't Evans be dismissed as well? He was the overseer of the program and bears at least some responsibility for the “dysfunction” in the football program.

Years ago, basketball star Len Bias died from a drug overdose after the Boston Celtics made him the No. 2 overall choice in the NBA draft. In the wake of that death, which took place well after the season, coach “Lefty” Driesell and the athletic director were both fired for cause. This seems to me to be at least a comparable situation.

At this point, the two members of the training staff who were placed on administrative leave remain in that status. Did Wes Robinson, a long time trainer, do his due diligence when McNair collapsed? I think not. He should be dismissed. Steve Nordwall, who was supposed to oversee the strength and conditioning coaches, failed in his responsibilities as Rick Court — who has since resigned with a severance payment — berated, bullied, and intimidated players. He too should be dismissed.

Loh, to his credit, recommended the firing of the coach to the board and when they failed to heed his recommendation he submitted a letter stating his intention to retire at the end of the academic year. I fervently hope that he changes his mind and rescinds that letter. The whole university and College Park community have benefited in many ways during his tenure and, as importantly, what academic would wish to become the President of the University of Maryland at this time?

Finally, James Brady, chairman of the Board of Regents, tendered his resignation, effective immediately. He stated that he did not want to be a distraction as the board and the university moved forward. I think that this was a wise move on his part since he declared that he would fire Dr. Loh if he didn't reinstate Durkin as coach.

Remember, election day is tomorrow. If you didn't take advantage of the early voting period please get to the polls. Especially this year, every vote counts.