The University System of Maryland’s governing body held a closed-door, marathon meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday to discuss the findings of an independent investigation into the University of Maryland’s football culture.
An eight-person commission was tasked with probing allegations of a toxic culture within the team after the death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The former McDonogh standout died after suffering heatstroke during practice in College Park.
Members of that commission — including former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, former U.S. congressman Tom McMillen and attorney Charlie Scheeler — either sat in or phoned into Tuesday’s seven-hour meeting. While the commission members left the meeting after roughly two hours, the regents carried on their private discussions for much of the afternoon.
The report was not made public Tuesday, and a spokesman for the board said no one would be made available to comment on the regents’ deliberations. The board met in closed session, a move allowed under the Open Meetings Act because they will be discussing potential litigation and personnel matters.
A thick binder containing the draft report sat in front of each member of the Board of Regents at the start of the meeting. One of the regents estimated it was roughly 200 pages long — but beyond that tidbit, the regents remained tight-lipped about any other details included in the report. The regents had been previously briefed on the findings during a regularly scheduled meeting Friday, but delved deeper during the special session this week, which was devoted solely to discussing the report and the future of the football program.
The university system will share the commission’s findings and its recommendations “within one week following the Oct. 23special meeting,” according to a news release. They will hold a private conference call Thursday to once again discuss the commission’s findings.
This is the second independent investigation stemming from McNair’s death being overseen by the 17-member Board of Regents. The first — led by sports medicine consultant Dr. Rod Walters — was commissioned to evaluate “procedures and protocols” related to McNair’s death.
Walters’ report, issued last month, found that team staff did not adhere to industry best practices in treating McNair. After he began displaying signs of heatstroke, they failed to take his temperature or use cold-water immersion, which experts say could have saved his life. University president Wallace Loh has said the school takes “legal and moral responsibility for mistakes the training staff made” on the day McNair was hospitalized.
Department financial records show a football program dwindling in popularity despite its high-profile athletic conference and a $196 million investment by private donors, the university and the state in a new football field house and multipurpose center.
A scathing ESPN article, published in August, catalyzed the second investigation. The story cited several anonymous former players and staffers who described a program led by football coach DJ Durkin that demeaned and embarrassed team members.
Durkin has been on administrative leave since Aug. 11. Players, boosters and fans are anxious to learn whether the report that was discussed Tuesday could lead to him being fired or reinstated. People are also eager to see what the findings might mean for the careers of athletic director Damon Evans and Loh.
Neither Loh nor anyone else representing the state flagship was present at Tuesday’s meeting.
As the regents deliberated in Baltimore, interim football coach Matt Canada held his regular weekly news conference in College Park. Despite swirling rumors and potential distractions, Canada said he was focused on preparing the Terps for their Saturday game against Illinois.
The players, Canada said, have “done a better job than anybody else of sticking together and focusing on what they’re doing and focusing on football, focusing on each other, focusing on mourning the loss of a teammate.”