George Solomon: Reflecting On Durkin’s Firing

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George Solomon: Reflecting On Durkin’s Firing
Nov 1, 2018

The return of DJ Durkin, on administrative leave since Aug. 11, to the practice field as head coach of the University of Maryland’s football team lasted one day.

One day.

Back in charge Tuesday Oct. 30, fired Wednesday, Oct. 31. Talk about not sending out your laundry.

Maryland’s 17-member Board of Regents reinstated Durkin on Tuesday, Oct. 30, after a four-month investigation into the football program following the June death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair from heat stroke after a late-May workout and an explosive story by ESPN on Aug. 10, charging a toxic culture in the football program.

James T. Brady, who chairs the board of regents, announced the reinstatement of Durkin on Tuesday, noting Durkin’s passion for the team and university at a meeting with the board last Friday. Brady also announced that Damon Evans, who had been promoted from interim athletic director to the full-time position after McNair’s death, was also to remain in his job.

But University of Maryland president, Wallace D. Loh, announced his resignation on Tuesday, effective at the end of the school year.

But strong reaction against Durkin’s return from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, some players (three reportedly walked out of Durkin’s first meeting with the team after his return on Tuesday and others tweeting their disapproval), additional lawmakers, Maryland students and faculty moved Loh to act. Evans told the team of Durkin’s removal, according to The Washington Post, after the school informed the board of regents of its action.

Loh did not need the board’s approval, although, the board can fire Loh, who still plans to retire in June.

Which brings us to Maryland winding up in NBC’s national newscast Wednesday night. The university’s latest coaching change and intramural infighting there for ancho Lester Holt and all his viewers to see.

Not to mention the national and local columnists who had a field day criticizing the board’s decision to retain Durkin and Evans, while allowing Loh to resign.

With the story changing by the hour, The Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins, before Durkin was fired by Loh, wrote a column that had the stamp of a piece that while not printed in the paper, will remain on the copiers of Maryland’s competitors in football, basketball, field hockey, engineering, journalism and every other endeavor offered in College Park.

Jenkins’ warning:

“Parents don’t send your kids to Maryland to play football. Just don’t do it. It’s not a university, it’s a canker sore, with a couple of dormitories strapped to its suppurating side. Don’t let your son so much as look at an application. At best, he will get all the wrong lessons in manhood, take courses in deceit, and spinelessness. …  It’s not a safe place for athletes or students, it’s a place for belly snakes. To quote Bette Davis, ‘What a dump.’”

I’m sure football recruiters at Michigan, Penn State and even Rutgers, not to mention recruiters in other fields of study, including journalism, will be quick to point out that Maryland is now classified as “a dump.” (Note to prospective journalism students: I’ve enjoyed my 16 years in this dump).

Will Durkin’s removal change the narrative? Can interim coach Matt Canada, who guided the Terrapins to a 5-3 record, keep the team competitive against the likes of Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State? Can his team win one more game (against Indiana Nov. 10) and actually become bowl eligible?

ESPN’s Trevor Matich, who played center in the NFL for more than 10 years, thinks it’s possible because Maryland’s players care about each other, their late teammate and their parents.

“It’s about the players,’’ Matich said on Sports Center Wednesday night.

He knows. He played.

Homepage image: D.J. Durkin (Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

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