By: Isaiah Blakely
Maryland’s decision to fire former head coach DJ Durkin over his mishandling of Jordan McNair’s death was the right decision, but the decision took too long. Maryland Terrapins head football coach was fired on Wednesday, a day after Maryland officials reinstated him.
Durkin had been on paid administrative leave since August 11. Maryland University had taken responsibility in early August and at that point you must fire the head coach. They fired strength and conditioning coach Rick Court the same day they took responsibility for McNair’s death. That was the correct decision, but to not fire Durkin as well does not make sense. Durkin is the head coach and at the end of the day Durkin is the overseer of everyone on his staff which includes Court. An incident like this requires the man in charge to be fired.
Maryland had an opportunity to make the right decision back in August so they could clean house and make a timely responsible decision. Instead they let this incident cloud over their program for months. The athletic program and the school continued to look worse as more and more bad news broke.
An investigation was done by an external investigator, and in October the investigators found out that Maryland football had an abusive culture and a culture that lacked accountability. They found that Court used homophobic slurs and Durkin acknowledged that there was verbal abuse, but didn’t believe Court crossed any lines.
Durkin’s negligence and not seeing anything wrong should have been a sign that he needed to be fired. It’s not acceptable to run college football programs like this, and at what point did Maryland University think to just cut their losses and save some of their reputation for their athletic program and their university. Durkin is not a prestigious coach or even been super successful one in his short stint with the Terrapins. He had an 11-15 record in his two seasons, so the only reason for waiting to fire Durkin was financial.
I understand the initial hesitation to fire Durkin because he had $5.1 million left on his deal and firing him without cause resulted in the school owing him that money, but money can not always be the deciding factor especially in decisions like this.
The fact that Maryland reinstated Durkin after the investigation clearly stated that there were several problems with the culture of the football team, and the university was accountable for the death of McNair is lazy and unaware.
The Board of Regents ignored McNair’s parent’s pleas to fire Durkin for months. Then they finally caved to the outside pressure of student groups planning protests. Even state politicians got involved and condemned the board’s decision.
Maryland eventually made the right decision to fire Durkin, but there were several moments in the process where they could have fired him sooner. Maryland University chose to worry about their potential financial obligations to Durkin instead of their moral obligations to all their students and alumni.