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Report: Maryland Football Culture Flawed, Not 'Toxic'

Paul Steinbach

An eight-week external investigation into the University of Maryland football program, prompted by the June death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and commissioned by the UM Board of Regents, took issue with the culture fostered under head coach DJ Durkin, but stopped short of deeming it "toxic," as several players have described it.

Players had characterized a culture of fear and intimidation in the wake of McNair's death due to heat illness, particularly noting the actions of strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, who reportedly "tried to humiliate players in front of their teammates" by "throwing food, weights, and on one occasion a trash can full of vomit." He was also accused of using homophobic slurs. Athletic director Damon Evans announced Aug. 14 that Maryland had parted ways with Court.

Durkin has remained on administrative leave since Aug. 11, and university officials are currently mulling his future at the school. Durkin reportedly had an "open door" policy, but players and coaches felt that they could not express views that varied from his, especially criticisms of Court, according to SI.com.

Among the investigation's findings, obtained by The Washington Post and reported by SI.com:

• During Mr. Durkin’s tenure, the Athletics Department lacked a culture of accountability, did not provide adequate oversight of the football program, and failed to provide Mr. Durkin with the tools, resources, and guidance necessary to support and educate a first-time head coach in a major football conference.

• Mr. Court, on too many occasions, acted in a manner inconsistent with the University’s values and basic principles of respect for others.

• Both Mr. Durkin and leadership in the Athletics Department share responsibility for the failure to supervise [strength and conditioning coach Rick] Court.

• The University leadership bears some responsibility for the ongoing dysfunction of the Athletics Department.

• Maryland should institute a strong "medical model" for student-athlete care to improve health outcomes and ensure that the University is a leader in collegiate sports medicine best practices.

The university's response to the McNair tragedy has drawn outside criticism, as well, with the above findings amounting to a whitewash in the eyes of some. Sally Jenkins of the Post opened her column yesterday by stating, "Let’s say a fraternity boy died on the University of Maryland campus after being hazed. The University of Maryland System Board of Regents wouldn’t need four months, two reports and a seven-hour secret meeting to figure out the right response. The frat would be expelled from campus."

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