Keep the coach, embarrass the school

Maryland football needs to seriously examine its priorities

nate-edited
The Spectrum

Two and a half million dollars per year. That’s the amount University of Maryland football head coach D.J. Durkin will make this season.

Seven hundred thousand dollars per year. That’s the amount Maryland athletic director Damon Evans will make this season.

Zero dollars per year. That’s the amount 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair made while playing for the Terrapins.

McNair passed away on June 13. Two weeks after he registered a body temperature of 106 degrees and was rushed to the hospital.

“There were multiple people that said, 'Wow, Jordan looks f----d up, he doesn't look all right,” an anonymous player told ESPN.

Following the 10th 110-yard sprint, longtime Maryland athletic trainer Wes Robinson yelled "Drag his ass across the field!" 

Robinson was placed on administrative leave.

Since McNair’s death, an investigation launched by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents looked into the culture and environment that is Maryland football.

Maryland football was found to be a “toxic” environment dating back to when former athletic director Kevin Anderson was in charge and nothing changed under the guidance of Durkin and Evans, according to an ESPN report.

A parent letter sent in 2016 raised concerns about the program, describing Durkin’s actions as “extreme and outrageous.” The parent went so far as to say Durkin is “the sole cause of emotional distress.”

Durkin had the support of many high-level boosters but did not have the support of his athletes. He had an “open door” policy, but players who did not align with his views felt this did not extend to them. Players and coaches at Maryland were hesitant to voice concerns for Durkin and feared for retribution against them.

Yet, Durkin was still reinstated to return to the sidelines this Saturday as the Terrapins take on Michigan State.

“The board has no authority to hire and fire a football coach, but they made clear that returning DJ [Durkin] to the field was their highest priority,” a source close to the situation said to The Washington Post.

It is also believed that if Maryland President Wallace Loh wanted to keep his position, he would keep Durkin as the coach. Loh is retiring in June.

This is a failure of college athletics. While not all the blame can be placed on Durkin for the state of his football team the fact that he did not report the abuse going on should lead to his dismissal.

The University of Maryland sacrificed its integrity for a coach that has brought nothing to it.

UB is currently in a weird middle ground. The university, students and community are not fully committed to football but with the recent success of athletic programs as a whole, they must decide what side to put their wallets on.

Durkin remained in power because Maryland was too afraid to upset its donors. Donors can provide a lot to a university and for athletic teams, they can help buy new equipment and help with recruiting.

The Bulls this season have launched crowdfunding campaigns for multiple teams, including football. Buffalo raised $7,765 beating its $6,000 goal. 

Donors were mostly anonymous and that is where the issue lies if scandal ever arises. Who are the ones giving money to a team in gross amounts when it is not an announced project? UB is a public institution so we should have the ability to know who the donors are.

What UB can’t have is a situation like Maryland.

The option of anonymity leads to too many questions. Who has influence on our university’s athletic decisions? The UB Council is made of multiple professionals in the athletics field. 

Jeremy M. Jacobs owns the Boston Bruins, Jonathan A. Dandes is the owner of Rich Baseball Operations and Christopher H. Koch is the CEO of New Era Cap who UB Athletics has advertising deals with. How much money are they giving to UB and how much control do they have? Will they have a say on the future of Lance Leipold here?

With this season’s football success, Buffalo will have to decide whether to listen to the donors or listen to its athletes if a scandal ever arises. Hopefully a head coach means less than a student dying.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.