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Maryland agrees to $3.5 million settlement with family of late Terps football player Jordan McNair

The University of Maryland has reached a $3.5 million settlement with Martin McNair and Tonya Wilson, the parents of Jordan McNair, the late Terps offensive lineman who died June 2018 after suffering heatstroke during a team practice.

The Maryland Board of Public Works will officially vote on the payment, which is listed on the agenda for the board’s upcoming meeting on Jan. 27.

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Attorneys representing the family of McNair, a former McDonogh standout, sent a notice to state officials in August 2018 signaling that they might sue.

“Marty and Tonya are relieved that this fight is over and to put this behind them as they continue to mourn Jordan’s death,” Hassan Murphy, attorney for the family, wrote in a statement. “They are committed to channeling their grief and loss into the work that remains to protect the lives of student-athletes around the world by educating them about the signs and risks of exertional heat stroke. And we, as a firm, are committed to working with them and the Maryland legislature to reform the tort laws of this state so that no family’s recovery is potentially limited by law to an amount that is less than what the responsible party received on his way out the door.”

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A university spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General wrote in an email, “We defer to the University for comment,” in response to a request for comment.

An external investigation into the death of the 19-year-old from Randallstown, who collapsed during a team conditioning test on May 29 and died a little less than two weeks later, found that more than an hour passed between the time McNair started displaying initial heatstroke symptoms and when university officials called 911. The review also found that the athletic training staff did not take McNair’s temperature and did not use a cold-water immersion treatment, a technique researchers say has a high success rate for those suffering heatstroke.

A separate investigation conducted by an independent, eight-person commission also found that the football program “fostered a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out” — but stopped short of calling the program “toxic,” which was reported in an earlier ESPN article.

Head coach D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave and later fired, along with two athletic trainers directly involved with the improper treatment of McNair. Head strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, whose coaching methods were criticized in the ESPN article, also resigned.

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Former Maryland president Wallace D. Loh announced his intention to retire in wake of the scandal and he officially retired in June 2019. Loh previously said that the university takes “legal and moral responsibility for mistakes the training staff made” on the day that McNair was hospitalized.

In the aftermath of McNair’s death, the university implemented close to two dozen recommendations from Dr. Rod Walters, who reviewed the team’s protocols the day McNair suffered heatstroke. Among those measures includes ensuring that cold water immersion devices are available at all practices, that specific temperature readings are done at each practice location, and that updated emergency plans are posted at all activity sites and drilled into staff. A 10-person independent medical review board was also formed to review policies regarding athlete health and welfare, including best practices typically recommended by the NCAA.

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