Alabama never sent out a release with the headline “DJ Durkin to join Crimson Tide in consulting role.”
You’ll never see that release. Ever.
You probably shouldn’t see the words “DJ Durkin joins Team X” in any way for at least a few years. At least that’s what should have been the case after Durkin was fired as Maryland’s head coach in October for his role in allowing what ESPN reported was a “toxic culture” surrounding the program, which was investigated in the wake of the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
The headline you probably did see Thursday was this:
Former Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who has been off the radar since getting fired in October, has been helping Alabama behind the scenes this past week in a consultant-like capacity, per sources https://t.co/cclk5dph2K
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) December 13, 2018
Yeah, you bet your you-know-what that was only coming from a reporter doing some digging.
In Alabama’s perfect world, there’s no way Durkin’s status with the team ever sees the light of day. He probably doesn’t ever step foot on campus, wear team gear or heck, knowing the way Alabama handles lawsuits over using the letter ‘A,’ the program probably prevents Durkin from even saying the letter.
That’s because there’s no way on God’s green earth that someone should be associated with Durkin right now.
The coach who an investigative team found would make his team watch horror movies while eating as “motivation” should not have any role in college athletics right now. Period.
It’s baffling that Alabama, which has consultants and analysts as far as the eye can see, decided to roll the dice on Durkin roughly 6 weeks removed from his disgraceful exit. Say what you want about Butch Jones, Lane Kiffin or Steve Sarkisian, but even to get help from someone with Durkin’s past that soon is a worse look than any reclamation project Nick Saban has ever taken on.
And for what? Why is Durkin so valuable that he’s worth the negative attention? Durkin’s defense ranked No. 120 of 130 FBS schools in scoring in 2017. Call me crazy, but I doubt that Durkin’s “expertise” is going to dig up the secret to stopping Kyler Murray.
Even if Saban had Durkin do mindless busy work to prep for the Orange Bowl, what’s the point of that? There are thousands of other qualified people who could do that, and none was fired 6 weeks ago for a multi-month investigation into a culture of “bullying, verbal abuse and humiliation directed at players.”
This sends the ultimate “win by any means necessary” message that, quite frankly, Saban doesn’t need heading into the Orange Bowl. You don’t bust out your cell phone at a funeral, and you don’t secretly team up with the guy who was just fired after an ugly national scandal/investigation aired the dirty laundry of his bullying ways.
I thought that Paul Finebaum brought up a great point in reacting to this news on Thursday:
— Outside The Lines (@OTLonESPN) December 13, 2018
Saban is the best college coach of all-time, and this is the best program in college football. His team won every game this year, and all but 1 game by at least 22 points. His defense is fourth in the country in scoring.
Shouldn’t that be enough?
Like, if Durkin showed up at Saban’s door begging for an opportunity, there’s no scenario in which the Alabama coach should say, “sure, we’ll bring you on board for the postseason.” It baffles me that those conversations about Durkin joining Alabama — probably not directly with Durkin and Saban — ever existed. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.
Maybe Saban and Alabama actually believed Durkin’s help could be kept quiet. Or perhaps the thinking was even if it did come out, who would dare question Saban’s decision-making? He has hired coaches with checkered pasts, and he’ll probably do so again. Saban probably has Urban Meyer’s windbreaker size all ready for when he takes that offensive analyst job next year.
It’s somewhat sad that the news about Durkin’s role with Alabama wasn’t really a surprise. After all, Saban wanted to hire Hugh Freeze but got rejected (twice, apparently). Saban looked past Mike Locksley’s sketchy history, which dating to his days as a head coach at New Mexico, included an altercation with an assistant coach and a lawsuit for discrimination against an administrative assistant.
The surprising headline would be “Nick Saban: We’re done hiring anyone with a checkered past.” As long as none of that happened at Alabama, Saban will continue to turn a blind eye if it can help him win football games. I’m not sure how Durkin helps Alabama wins football games, though.
So I guess in a way, Thursday’s headline actually was a surprise when you think about it. Whatever upside Durkin provides will be overshadowed by the embarrassment it brings Alabama. At a time when the last thing Saban wants is a distraction, he just took one on.
Six weeks was way too soon for Alabama to be associated with Durkin in any capacity. When would it have made sense?
I don’t know. How about never.