Reforms Promised for Athletics

Student-Athlete’s Death Prompts Reviews of Training and Coaching
by Liam Farrell | Photo by John T. Consoli

University president Wallace D. Loh took “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes that led to the death of a football player and pledged to implement reforms recommended by two external investigations to protect Terp student-athletes.

Teammates of Jordan McNair, 19, who was hospitalized and died 15 days after suffering heatstroke during a May 29 training session, have also vowed to honor the player they called a “gentle giant” this season and beyond.

“We plan to have his legacy live on forever,” said offensive lineman Ellis McKennie. “Every play we make, every snap we take will be in Jordan’s honor.”

McNair, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound Randallstown, Md., native, was a four-star recruit out of the McDonogh School. He appeared in one game as a Terrapin, making his collegiate debut against Towson last season.

Immediately after McNair’s death on June 13, UMD hired a sports medicine consulting firm to review relevant student-athlete policies and protocols within 90 days. After preliminary findings indicated that athletic training staff had failed to recognize the severity of his symptoms or to use standard treatments for heatstroke, Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans visited McNair’s parents to apologize.

“I made a commitment … that no Maryland student-athlete will be in a situation where his or her life and safety will be at risk, especially when that risk is foreseen,” Loh said at an Aug. 14 news conference.

Following media reports alleging verbal abuse and intimidation of players by coaching staff, Loh also committed to a broad review of the football program.

Strength and conditioning coach Rick Court resigned, and as of press time on Aug. 27, the university had placed head football coach D.J. Durkin and members of the athletics training staff on administrative leave. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada was named interim head coach. The University of Maryland System Board of Regents is now overseeing the two investigations.

“We have already taken immediate steps to put additional safeguards in place for all our athletic practices and training—not just football. We have changed how we practice, and also how we train our staff,” Evans said. “Make no mistake: We will not tolerate any behavior from any employee within Maryland Athletics that is detrimental to the mental or physical well-being of our student-athletes.”

In August, McNair’s teammates (below) announced that moments of silence would be held before the Sept. 1 game versus Texas at FedEx Field in Landover, and before the Sept. 15 game versus Temple at Maryland Stadium. Other plans include:

• Wearing helmet stickers with McNair’s number, 79.

• Endowing a scholarship with McNair’s name for a Maryland student-athlete.

• Honoring McNair on his scheduled senior day in 2020, and allowing a new player to wear 79 only after he would have graduated.

• Naming the new Cole Field House offensive line room for McNair.

• Enclosing McNair’s locker in a glass case and moving it to Cole when it is complete.

Offensive lineman Johnny Jordan called him “one of the best friends, teammates and roommates anyone could ever ask for” and thanked fans for their words of support.

“It is now more than ever that we need your support,” he said. “We are all in this together.”


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