Here's the most sickening thing about this Maryland player abuse scandal
For the second Friday afternoon in a row, a B1G East program made me roll my eyes in disgust.
Last Friday, it was Urban Meyer’s published Twitter statement wherein he offered no apology to Courtney Smith and instead outlined how he wasn’t “adequately prepared” to answer several questions about why Ohio State fired Zach Smith.
This Friday, it was the ESPN report about the “toxic environment” at Maryland that got my blood pumping. If you haven’t read ESPN’s multiple stories about it, I recommend you do so. You don’t need to have any interest in Durkin or the Terps to have a reaction to the strong allegations made by former/current players, as well as former Maryland assistants.
Obviously the report triggered a reaction within the Maryland athletic department because within the hour of its release, multiple trainers and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court were all put on administrative leave.
Without the release of the ESPN report, nothing would’ve forced Maryland to take action. Not even the death of Jordan McNair prompted Maryland to investigate the way that ESPN did.
That’s the problem.
Here’s the part of the ESPN report that I just can’t get over:
Shortly before McNair’s death and while he remained hospitalized, Maryland coaches held a team meeting during which, according to sources, players criticized the methods used by Court and Durkin. Durkin was initially receptive to their concerns, sources said. Players and other team sources said voluntary workouts in late June and July, after McNair’s death, lessened in intensity. But when Maryland opened preseason training camp Aug. 3, the workouts and overall climate around the program largely returned to how they were before McNair’s death, the sources said. Since the middle of this week, however, there has been more attention paid to players who show fatigue or distress.
“Now that we get to camp, it just seems like regular business,” a current player said. “That’s when I started to get upset because I feel like nothing’s really changed. Have these guys learned their lesson?”
Even after McNair died on their watch as the result of heat stroke, Maryland had some meetings and then went back to business as usual. These reports make it sound like Durkin and Court just treated the McNair death as “an out-of-shape kid who couldn’t cut it.” That’s what going back to “regular business” suggests.
You see, the alarms should’ve been sounding off at Maryland that a player died as the result of a workout in late May.
I don’t care what the athletic department says about its “internal investigation.” If it really did its due diligence, it would’ve had first-hand accounts from McNair’s heat stroke that warranted immediate action. The ESPN quote from multiple sources about Maryland head athletic trainer Wes Robinson’s reaction to McNair first showing signs of heat stroke was stunning.
Multiple sources said that after McNair finished his 10th sprint while two other players held him up, Robinson yelled, “Drag his ass across the field!”
That’s a fireable offense right there. That’s a trainer saying that.
What’s the key word there? “Multiple.” That’s multiple first-hand witnesses. That’s not a disgruntled former player or coach. That’s a current player or coach, who Maryland brass could’ve easily interviewed and found that before ESPN did.
ESPN’s report outlines the pattern of intimidation used. It quotes anonymous sources, but contrary to what South Carolina coach Will Muschamp suggested, ESPN didn’t “lack journalistic integrity” by not naming current players it quoted. At a place where patterns of intimidation allegedly ran through the training staff, that’s totally understandable to not name current players or former coaches who wish to remain anonymous.
This is a quote from a current anonymous Maryland player, which sums up the bigger picture with this current situation.
“We had a kid die. … It took all summer for us to even get a third-party investigation to meet with, and the timing [of those interviews] is absolutely horrendous,” the player said. “This is a huge problem at Maryland.”
You’re darn right this is a huge problem.
If you think this is #FakeNews or just “kids being soft,” I’m sorry. I can’t help you. As much as some people would like to believe it’s still 1985, it’s not. We’ve evolved in our treatment of conditioning and player safety because there’s more information available.
This isn’t the way it’s being done everywhere because if it was, we’d see a whole bunch of kids dying in summer workouts. Maybe the good that will come of McNair’s death is that it’ll shine a bright light on the dated philosophy that somehow still exists at Maryland.
If this came as some bombshell to the Maryland brass, perhaps it shouldn’t have.
I remember two years ago before Durkin had ever coached a game. There was an odd story that, to be honest, I didn’t really think much of. But when I heard about McNair’s death, my mind immediately reverted back to it.
Maryland offensive lineman Brendan Moore did an interview with the Big Ten Network crew during the first fall camp of the Durkin era. He shared that he lost 13 pounds during practice that day. Thirteen pounds. That’s not normal. Not surprisingly, that video was later taken down.
Also not surprisingly, it took an additional ESPN report to figure out which staffers were put on administrative leave. Maryland didn’t provide any details on that when it announced the move on Friday after the original ESPN report. We found out via ESPN that it was Court, Robinson and director of athletic training Steve Nordwall who were put on administrative leave.
My question is, why wasn’t Durkin? Because it’s August and Maryland is 3 weeks away from the start of the season? Or because the university doesn’t want to fire Durkin and risk adding an additional lawsuit?
I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that if Durkin somehow keeps his job following the “internal investigation,” his reputation is going to take a major hit. Shoot, it already has.
Certainly I’m not the only person rolling their eyes in disgust.