A week after the University of Maryland fired football coach DJ Durkin, the two trainers directly involved with the improper treatment of football player Jordan McNair when he suffered a fatal heatstroke May 29 have been terminated as well.
Head football trainer Wes Robinson and assistant athletic director Steve Nordwall, who oversaw the training staff, were informed Tuesday that they were fired by the university, sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
When reached Wednesday, Nordwall declined to comment on his situation, saying, “I’m about to get on the phone with my attorney. I’m going to hold off for comments right now, but I will let you know when I get a better sense.”
Robinson, who was in his 12th year as the team’s head football trainer, said through his attorney that he was terminated without cause.
Nordwall came to Maryland from Eastern Michigan in 2014.
Along with Durkin, Robinson and Nordwall had been placed on paid administrative leave in mid-August.
A university spokeswoman confirmed in an email that “the trainers that were previously on administrative leave are no longer employed by the university.” Maryland has never officially named either Robinson or Nordwall as the trainers involved.
Robinson and Nordwall, who were present when McNair fell ill during a team conditioning test May 29, failed to follow what has become the standard protocol for victims of heatstroke, according to an independent review of the circumstances that led to McNair’s death.
The trainers did not take his temperature nor apply cold-water immersion therapy to reduce his body temperature.
The 19-year-old offensive lineman struggled to finish the test that consisted of 10, 110-yard runs. According to the independent review by former college trainer Dr. Rod Walters, Robinson yelled to other players near McNair to “drag his ass across the field” to help him finish.
According to the Walters report, the trainers also waited more than an hour to call 911 after failing to recognize the symptoms of heatstroke.
The former McDonogh School standout was measured to have a body temperature of 106 degrees in the hospital. He died June 13.
At a news conference Aug. 14, athletic director Damon Evans and university president Wallace Loh spoke of the “mistakes” made by Robinson and Nordwall on the day McNair suffered heatstroke.
Evans said the care provided by the trainers “was not consistent with best practices.” Loh said that the training staff “basically misdiagnosed the situation.” He added the university would take “legal and moral responsibility for mistakes the training staff made.”
The second investigation, assembled by an independent eight-person commission includes interviews with several players and parents who expressed frustration to the commission with the way injuries were handled.
One player anonymously said “under Durkin, you weren’t allowed to be injured. … You weren’t injured unless you couldn’t walk.” They accused Robinson of assuming players were “faking” their injuries.
Other anonymous athletes said Robinson encouraged them to play despite their injuries, or downplayed their pain, and limited their contact with outside doctors. In an interview with the commission members, Robinson denied the players’ versions of events or said he could not recall them.
One staff member noted that some players who have been on the team for years believe Robinson changed his style “to match the intense styles of Mr. Durkin and [since-resigned strength and conditioning coach Rick] Court when they arrived.”
“That sentiment was echoed by some of the players, parents and coaches,” the report states.
But the report also noted that many players approved of the handling and treatment of athletes’ injuries.
“We received numerous comments from players and staff opining that Mr. Robinson was being unfairly scapegoated,” the report read.
An assistant coach also told — “with strong conviction” — that he never witnessed Robinson taking actions that “gave him any concern when it came to taking care of the players.”
The report also found there was “discord” between Nordwall and the people he supervised — along with tensions with Nordwall’s own supervisor. He ended up “effectively unsupervised for an extended duration,” the report found.