Advertisement

Durkin family hopes latest move, to Maryland, is the longest of a busy coaching career

Sarah Brumback never moved growing up as a child in Cincinnati, leaving for the first time when she went off to college at Bowling Green.

It was there she met and started dating her future husband, a football player named DJ Durkin. As his playing career was about to end, he mentioned that he planned on becoming a college coach.

Advertisement

"We were still dating when I was a graduate assistant coach. She knew what she was getting into and we had a lot of those conversations ahead of time," Durkin recalled Tuesday. "Sometimes it's hard if you've already been a coach for eight, 10 years and you meet someone. It is a different lifestyle. It takes a special person, a special woman to do it."

The Durkins have made six moves since they were married in 2002, and spent no more than five years in the same place. That was at Florida, where both of their children, 6-year-old Abigail and 3-year-old Luke, were born.

The Durkins hope their latest move, to Maryland 11 months ago, lasts a lot longer.

"We came here with a purpose, to build this thing right with the intent of being here," said Durkin, who signed a five-year contract worth more than $2.5 million annually.

Said Sarah Durkin, "I guess in this business, you never know how long you're going to be somewhere, so my goal is to make it a home as quickly as possible."

DJ Durkin, 38, can point to some of the moves he made that had nothing to do with the job he had done.

In 2010, he joined Urban Meyer at Florida as linebackers and special teams coach after three years coaching defensive ends and special team under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

Durkin's move came amid speculation that Harbaugh was going to leave for the NFL after interviewing with the New York Jets. Harbaugh left to become coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.

In 2015, Durkin left Florida to rejoin Harbaugh at Michigan as defensive coordinator after finishing his time with the Gators as defensive coordinator and then serving as interim coach for the Birmingham Bowl after Will Muschamp stepped down.

Durkin will face Harbaugh for the first time as a head coach when the Terps play the No. 2 Wolverines on Saturday in Ann Arbor, then go up against Meyer, now at Ohio State, the following week at Maryland Stadium.

"In this profession, you're never in charge of your own destiny, but as a head coach you have more control," Durkin said. "As an assistant, you're at the mercy or hands of someone else — good or bad. You win a bunch of games, and they can take another job. That affects you. Obviously losing [does, too]."

This represents one of the more interesting stretches in Durkin's first season as a head coach. For Sarah Durkin, Friday and Saturday will be a time to catch up with old friends in Ann Arbor.

"I have a lot of friends on that staff. It's never easy to play your friends," Sarah Durkin said. "But for me, friendship trumps football. I will probably see those women and it's not going to be weird — they're my friends."

Yet, as she sheepishly acknowledged, "I certainly want to get a win."

Advertisement

Despite a difference in age, the Durkins were extremely close with 66-year-old Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison and his wife, Ann.

They first met when DJ Durkin was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 2003 and 2004, and Mattison — who later became a Ravens assistant under John Harbaugh — was on the staff of Ty Willingham.

"Just the way they have for so many years, they've been wonderful parents and wonderful husband and wife to one another," Sarah Durkin said. "They've moved a lot. They've been very instrumental in our lives and as a couple, just sort of how it should be done. They've been very close as a family even though they've moved a ton."

Since being hired as Maryland's head coach last December, DJ Durkin and his family have lived in their Kensington home longer than in their house in Ann Arbor.

Though Durkin had taken over as Wolverines defensive coordinator in early January 2015, his family's move was delayed, first by a flooded basement in the house they had bought and then some April snow.

"We were supposed to be in a hotel for seven to 10 days," Sarah Durkin recalled. "When all that happened, the kids and I moved back with my parents in Florida. We officially moved into our house in Ann Arbor on July 25."

Less than a month after DJ Durkin was hired at Maryland, the family moved into its new house on New Year's Eve.

"Come December, we will have lived in Maryland twice as long as we lived in Michigan," Sarah Durkin said. "In regards to the move to Michigan, obviously it's nice you have a little more stability as a head coach. … I felt more settled here in our first two weeks than I ever did in Michigan."

Sarah Durkin credits Moira Anderson, the wife of Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson, as well as Ann Turgeon, the wife of men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon, for helping make that transition a smooth one.

It was Moira Anderson who pulled Sarah Durkin away from the news conference after her husband was introduced as Maryland's new coach to go to lunch at the Turgeons' house. It was the start of what has become a close friendship between the two coaches and their families.

"The Turgeon family are like angels, really," Sarah Durkin said. "The day of the press conference, Moira Anderson sort of whisked me away and said, 'Let's have a break for a second.' Ann had soup on the stove, and salad, and we just sort of sat around the table. It was such a nice moment to be able to be yourself and sort of breathe for a second. It was such a whirlwind."

Ann Turgeon began showing Sarah Durkin houses and schools.

"In a day, she took me to eight separate schools and I saw three houses," Sarah Durkin recalled. "And she packed me a lunch, and I was with her the entire time. In one day, I found a school for Abigail and a house to live in. She started school when everyone got back from Christmas break."

Less than two weeks after they arrived, the region was hit with a 3-foot snowmaggedon.

It was the first time either of her children had seen more than a dusting of snow.

"I blame myself for that. I really didn't want to do a Michigan winter," Sarah Durkin joked. "They really enjoyed the snow. They had never gone sled-riding."

Though the Turgeons are older, as are their children, the families have become close, with their houses only a couple of streets apart. The Turgeon kids — 16-year-old Will, 13-year-old Ella and 11-year-old Leo — have babysat for the Durkin kids.

"She's become a really good friend of mine. I adore her kids and her extended family," Ann Turgeon said last week. "It's been really fun for us. … When you're a [coach's] family, you often don't have your family nearby, and your staff and their families and the Durkins become your family."

Said DJ Durkin, "It's been huge. More than anyone could expect. They've been great to us. It's been great for Sarah because Ann's another person that would understand. Even family — my parents, her parents — don't understand what it's like to do that. It's different."

The morning after Durkin suffered a second straight loss, at home to Minnesota, following a 4-0 start, Mark Turgeon texted him kiddingly, saying, "I told you it wasn't going to be this easy."

Advertisement

Sarah Durkin said she hasn't seen much change in her husband in the nearly 11 months since he took the job at Maryland.

"DJ's really the same person. I've never seen a job change who he is. He's pretty tried and true," Sarah Durkin said. "It's pretty black and white in DJ Durkin world. I think there's more added pressure because you're in charge of so many people and their families, and there's more a sense of responsibility.

"And as families transitioned here with us, we know the stress that puts on a wife and a marriage and the kids. When you're an assistant and transitioning, you're relying on the head coach for lots of decision. It's just being a way of what our staff is going through."

Sarah Durkin said it's easier living in Maryland than it has been in other places such as Ann Arbor and Gainesville, Fla.

"One of the nice things in this transition to Maryland, which has been helpful as a first-time head coach, is that we're not living in a fishbowl," Sarah Durkin said. "We're living in an area where there's so much going on. We're in a big city, D.C. and Baltimore.

"When you're in small college town, it is very much a fishbowl. And I think that makes it a little bit more difficult on your family and you [as the head coach]. I think we live a very normal life. I like to fly under the radar. We can go out anywhere. … It's a welcome change."

DJ Durkin said that has made the transition to his first head coaching job easier.

"From a football standpoint and more than anything from a personal standpoint, you can actually go do something with your family and it's not on [top of] you like that," he said. "Sometimes it's hard in smaller places to really do anything. I think it's good that when I'm with my family, to have family time."

What also makes it easier is sharing this journey with his wife.

"The way you have to treat it, the way we treat it, this is our profession," he said. "It's our job. She's very involved with our team, with our players, with what we do. You spend so much time in football, if you don't include your kids, your wife, your family, then you're missing out on too much."

twitter.com/sportsprof56

Advertisement
Advertisement