USM board chair Linda Gooden said the group realizes its recommendation to reinstate coach DJ Durkin was wrong.

By Alaa Abdeldaiem
November 07, 2018

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents apologized on Wednesday for its recommendation to retain head coach DJ Durkin.

Newly-elected chair Linda Gooden issued a statement on Wednesday acknowledging that the board erred in its personnel recommendations made on Oct. 30, which promoted the reinstatement of Durkin after the coach was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 11. The system’s board of regents debated Durkin, athletic director Damon Evans and university president Wallace D. Loh's job status internally for 1 1/2 weeks before announcing their decisions.

"In its quest to keep an open mind about the facts presented in the two recent reports on the tragic death of Jordan McNair and the University of Maryland, College Park football program, and subsequent interviews with those involved, the board — in the minds of many — lost sight of its responsibility to the university system," Gooden said. "While the board’s decision was far from unanimous, and many members voted a different way, everyone on the board now understands that the board’s personnel recommendations were wrong. For that, we apologize to the McNair family, the University of Maryland, College Park community, and to the citizens of our state."

Maryland ultimately parted ways with Durkin, firing him without cause just one day after the university had accepted the board's recommendations. Loh announced that he is retiring in June at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Board of regents chairman James T. Brady stepped down on Nov. 1 after receiving backlash from the group's recommendations.

Timeline of Jordan McNair's Death and Its Aftermath

The university first placed Durkin on leave on Aug. 11 after ESPN released an explosive in-depth report detailing a "toxic" culture within the Terrapins football program. On Sept. 21, an independent investigation found Maryland culpable in the death of McNair, 19, who died of a heatstroke in June after collapsing at an offseason team workout. The offensive lineman had difficulty standing up and breathing while running sprints at a May workout. McNair died two weeks later on June 13.

On Aug. 14, Loh and Evans announced that they had apologized to McNair’s parents and that "the university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May 29." Loh said the training staff “misdiagnosed” McNair’s situation, and Evans revealed that McNair did not have his temperature taken, nor was he given cold water immersion to lower his body temperature.

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Maryland's board of regents concluded an eight-week external report on Oct. 25 and found that "the Athletics Department lacked a culture of accountability, did not provide adequate oversight of the football program." Still, the board recommended that Durkin return from leave, sparking public outrage from several Maryland players, students and government officials. Loh decided to fire Durkin on Oct. 31 after deciding that "a departure is in the best interest of the University."

The university also fired athletic trainers Wes Robinson and Steve Nordwall on Tuesday.

"Our goal as a board is to govern in a manner that affords every student an opportunity for a safe, affordable, and quality education experience," Gooden said. "Under my leadership, this board will accomplish that goal by recommitting to the principle of shared governance."

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