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Ben Jealous calls for Maryland football coach, athletic director to be suspended

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous on Saturday called for the University of Maryland to suspend its football coach and athletic director after explosive ESPN reporting into the team’s toxic culture and offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s final practice.

McNair, 19, a former McDonogh standout, died June 13 after collapsing during practice in College Park about two weeks earlier. His family has said the cause of death was heatstroke.

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The state’s flagship university hired a sports medicine consulting group to conduct an external review. A university spokesperson said Friday that some members of coach DJ Durkin’s support staff are on paid administrative leave based on the initial findings of the review.

The university declined to name the individuals placed on leave, pending the outcome of the final report. Walters Inc., the consulting firm, is expected to finish its review no later than Sept. 15.

“I have been clear in the values that should define everything we do, and these reports are not reflective of the culture we seek to build here,” athletic director Damon Evans said in the letter.

Until that point, Jealous said in a statement, Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans should also be suspended. He said the university can’t afford to leave its athletic department’s leadership in place while the investigation is ongoing.

“The athletics director and the head coach are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of our student athletes,” Jealous said. “For there to be reports of purposefully unsafe conditioning practices built on the foundation of verbal abuse, fear, and humiliation—even after the death of a teenager in their care—is the definition of inexcusable.”

ESPN’s reporting revealed a football culture based on humiliation, bullying and fear.

McNair’s parents have hired a prominent Baltimore law firm to represent them.

Maryland placed unnamed staff members on administrative leave, but leaves third-year coach DJ Durkin in charge of the team as the external review of the circumstances surrounding Jordan McNair's death continues.

At a news conference last month, attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. blamed the football program’s “macho culture” for what happened to McNair.

“The tendency in a culture like that is to overlook legitimate symptoms that are causing a player not to be able to perform,” he said in July. “That’s what we believe happened here.”

Others have also been calling for additional athletic department officials to step down.

Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat, tweeted one of the ESPN articles Friday and said: “This is NOT OK! I am so outraged that this continued and a young man is dead. So preventable! Outrageous. TerpsFootball coaches need to resign tonight. They should not be at another game.”

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