Athletics Reflects and Rebuilds
Department Presses Ahead to Protect Student-AthletesBy Terp Staff | Photo by John T. Consoli / Locksley photo by Greg Fiume/Maryland Athletics
Maryland Athletics is continuing to implement a series of reforms to improve student-athletes’ safety across all sports following the death last June of sophomore offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
In January, the athletics department was expected to announce the appointment of a new Athletic Medicine Review Board, comprising independent experts who will routinely review the department’s policies and their implementation. In addition, Maryland Athletics has retained sports medicine consulting firm Walters Inc. to support its progress; this same firm conducted an independent investigation into McNair’s death after he suffered heatstroke during a team workout.
The Walters report outlined a series of mistakes by Maryland’s athletics training staff and recommended 20 changes in policies and practices to ensure the safety and well-being of student-athletes. University President Wallace D. Loh and Athletics Director Damon Evans vowed to carry out every one.
“The death of Jordan McNair has touched the lives of every member of our community, and Jordan’s legacy will forever live on as a part of Maryland Athletics,” Evans said. “We are committed to honoring his life by making sure something like this never happens again.”
The university will also soon appoint an advisory council, one recommendation from a second external review into Maryland’s football program that identified a number of troubling practices in the athletics department. This new group is charged with helping to foster a culture that represents the university’s values.
The department completed many of the recommended reforms spanning all sports during the fall semester, including developing venue-specific emergency action plans, making cold water immersion devices available for all activities, providing enhanced trauma bags for all practices and games with thermistors to assess core temperature and tarps for cooling, and initiating a medical timeout before all practices. In addition, student-athletes who use stimulant or related medications will be informed each year about their potential impact on heat and exercise tolerance.
“It shows you they are sincere about this,” said Rod Walters, president of Walters Inc. “It’s amazing how much more clarity there is.”
The department has also introduced new ways for student-athletes to voice their concerns, including an anonymous online reporting system, and to increase oversight and accountability among Athletics’ leadership. A revised ethics code for the staff is now under review, and the department will solicit feedback on it from across campus.
The ultimate goal, Evans said, is to support student-athletes as they pursue success in the classroom and on the field.
“The work across these four areas will serve as our starting point for further reforms and an opportunity for us to share what we have learned with universities across the system,” he said.
Locksley Takes Over as Head Coach
The University of Maryland has turned to a familiar face to shape the future of its football team: Michael Locksley, a D.C. native who spent a decade on the Terps’ coaching staff and became one of the nation’s most successful recruiters.
Locksley was lured from his post as offensive coordinator at Alabama in December—on the same day he won the 2018 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.
“My No. 1 priority and focus will be the health, development and safety of this family,” he said at an introductory press conference. “I want to create the right culture and environment, and winning will follow.”
Locksley was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in College Park from 2012–15, and running backs coach and recruiting coordinator from 1997–2002. Athletics Director Damon Evans praised him as “ingrained in the very fabric of who we are as a state and who we are as Terps.”
“This has been a difficult season for our team. They deserve someone who can bring us together,” Evans said. “Coach Locksley doesn’t just consider himself a coach while the student-athletes are here. He’s their coach for life.”
When first meeting with the team, Locksley said he told the players how proud he was watching them beat eventual Big 12 runner-up Texas in the first game of the year.
“What passion, energy, toughness this team played with,” he said. “I’m not coming into a bare cupboard. I’m coming into a team that has fight in them.”
Locksley played safety at Towson University and was the team’s defensive MVP as a senior in 1991, when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. He started his coaching career at Towson as a defensive backs and special teams coach in 1992, and subsequently worked with the Naval Academy Preparatory School, the University of the Pacific, Army, Florida and Illinois.
Known as a recruiting guru with a pipeline into the best football talent of the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia region, he helped sign eight top-25 incoming classes, including four in the top five.
Although Locksley’s two-plus years as a head coach at New Mexico from 2009–11 ended with a 2-26 record, the new Terps leader said he has grown in the years since, particularly after coaching under Alabama’s Nick Saban, one of the premier coaches in college football history.
“I just spent three years saturated in winning,” he said. “It’s my goal … to recreate that environment here.”
Locksley and his family have also dealt with tragedy, as his son, Meiko, was shot and killed in 2017. He said that experience strengthened his friendship with late offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s parents, which began when their kids went to high school together. McNair’s father, Marty, attended the introductory press conference.
“I know what it’s like to lose someone you love. It’s not something that just goes away. It’s a day-to-day fight,” Locksley said. “I’m looking forward to fighting this battle with our team.”
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