Legal action against the University of Maryland over the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair appears imminent following receipt of a letter to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents authored by the attorney representing McNair's parents.
Addressed to board chair James Brady, the letter served as follow-up to a report released Friday outlining shortcomings in the treatment McNair received for heat-related illness at a May 29 workout. He died June 13. According to ESPN.com, the five-page letter states that Martin and Tonya McNair "are deeply disturbed by the Board of Regents' refusal to accept responsibility for Jordan's death in the face of the independent, powerful and tragic findings of a report that you personally oversaw."
State prosecutors are considering whether criminal charges are warranted.
At an August 14 news conference, Maryland president Wallace Loh said he accepted "legal and moral responsibility" on behalf of the university for the mistakes made by athletic training staff, two members of which remain on leave from their positions. But Brady stopped short of echoing Loh's comments when asked about them on Friday. "I'm not in a position to make that call at this point in time. I think there is a lot of information we are gathering, and I'm not prepared to make that call. I am prepared to say that the death of this young man is a tragedy."
William Murphy, the McNair's attorney, wrote in the letter to Brady, "Your failure to take responsibility for Jordan's death is part of your continuing pattern of insensitivity toward the McNair family, motivated by your attempts to mitigate the tragedy and protect your and the university's interests."
The letter also requested documentation on football-related deaths in the state, including two additional deaths that occurred in 2011 and 2013 at schools within the university system, and asked for lessons learned by the system from the 2014 heatstroke death of a player at Morgan State.
"It is now becoming clear that you are leaving the family no alternative but to establish legal and moral responsibility in a court of law," Murphy wrote. "It is beyond doubt that this litigation will demonstrate a callous disregard and deliberate indifference for Jordan's health, welfare and safety on May 29, and a consistent and systemic pattern of callous disregard for the safety of student athletes at the University System of Maryland."
The University System of Maryland issued the following statement in response to the letter late Wednesday night:
"The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents is deeply saddened by the tragic death of University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) student-athlete Jordan McNair. As board chair James T. Brady stated Friday, Mr. McNair's death has been devastating not only for his family, friends and teammates, but for many others across the USM and the state.
"And while we can never make up for this loss, we can and must obtain all available information as to what happened on May 29 so we can ensure that a tragedy like this never occurs again on any of our campuses.
"To that end, several investigations were launched to gather and establish as many facts as possible. Dr. Rod Walters' review of UMCP's protocols and procedures and how they were implemented is the first to be completed. An independent commission continues to investigate the culture of football at the university, particularly with respect to student health and safety. Finally, the Office of the Attorney General, as it does in all such cases, is conducting an investigation to assess, among other issues, potential legal responsibility.
"We will not speculate, make judgments or attempt to apportion responsibility until all of these investigations are concluded and the Board of Regents has sufficient information to make the decisions necessary to better safeguard the well-being of student athletes at the University of Maryland, College Park and other USM institutions."
Meanwhile, UM athletic director Damon Evans told ESPN that he was misinformed initially about the circumstances surrounding the May 29 workout.
"A point of concern for me is the question over whether Jordan completed the workout, as it was initially told to the university in the hours and days following Jordan's hospitalization. What became clear through the Walters review is that Jordan did not complete the workout on his own," Evans said in a statement published Wednesday by SI.com. "I regret that those details, which were based off the information shared with the university at the time, contained inaccurate information. We learned through the preliminary findings that the appropriate protocols were not followed, and the university apologized for the mistakes made. We have committed to implementing the Walters review recommendations and taking further actions to enhance the safety of our student-athletes."