William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., is the attorney for the family of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair. Murphy talks about McNair's cause of death was a heatstroke, citing his death certificate. (Baltimore Sun / Jonas Shaffer)
An attorney for the family of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair said Sunday that football coach DJ Durkin should be fired “immediately” for his role in overseeing the offseason workout that left the former McDonogh star hospitalized.
In an afternoon news conference at the Baltimore offices of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. said Durkin, who was placed on administrative leave Saturday as the university investigates McNair’s death and reports of a demeaning coaching culture, and his staff showed “complete indifference” at the May 29 practice in which McNair struggled to complete a series of sprints.
McNair was “at a walk or a jog, at the best,” on his final 110-yard run, said Malcolm Ruff, a Murphy, Falcon & Murphy associate, and teammates had to return and carry him past the finish line. Ruff said the law firm, which he said has spoken with Terps players at the practice, has corroborating evidence that suggests that McNair was showing signs of heatstroke before he completed the workout. McNair died June 13, the cause of which Murphy said was heatstroke, citing two iterations of the 19-year-old’s death certificate.
The University of Connecticut's Korey Stringer Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing sudden death in sports, recommends ice-water immersion for athletes suffering heatstroke. Doctors have said that cooling former Towson University player Gavin Class in 50-degree water after he collapsed of heatstroke during a Tigers football practice five years ago likely saved his life. But Ruff said there were no ice baths present at the workout.
“In a modern football setting, if you're more than a few steps from ice baths, you're asking for people to get permanently injured and die,” Murphy said.
Ruff said that after the set of sprints, head athletic trainer Wes Robinson yelled at McNair, “Drag his [butt] across the field.” According to Murphy, McNair was taken across the field, away from the Gossett Team House, “in an attempt to get him to stop procrastinating or stop shirking his responsibilities. And that was exactly the wrong thing to do.”
Murphy told ESPN last week that McNair had a seizure about 5 p.m. According to tapes obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a public-records request, it wasn’t until shortly before 6 p.m. that a 911 call was placed in which an unidentified caller described McNair’s breathing problems.
The Sun has requested video of the workout, which Murphy said he has been told exists, but the university has not yet responded to a Public Information Act request. A university spokesman on Sunday referred to the school’s previous account of the day and declined to comment further.
Walters Inc., a sports medicine consulting firm led by former longtime athletic trainer Rod Walters, is investigating the protocols and procedures relating to McNair’s death, and a report of its findings is expected to be completed by Sept. 15. Murphy said a civil lawsuit against the university is “absolutely probable,” but that he likely would wait until after the results of the probe are disclosed.
In a letter to the school community, university President Wallace D. Loh announced Saturday night that Maryland will launch a separate external investigation into the football program’s coaching practices. Durkin, Robinson and two other staff members were put on administrative leave in the wake of an ESPN report in which current and former players complained of a team culture rife with abuse, name-calling and bullying.
Other current and former players, including McDonogh graduate and former Terps captain Roman Braglio, have defended the program, saying those critical of the culture were disgruntled and unwilling to work hard enough.
Murphy doubted the viability of the football program so long as Durkin is associated with Maryland.
“What recruits, after conferring with their mother and father, would want to come to the University of Maryland football program until this entire mess is wiped away and there is some assurance that it will never happen again?” he said. “So that's why we feel strongly that he ought to be fired.”