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Big Ten News: DJ Durkin fired by Maryland following initial reinstatement

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NCAA Football: Maryland at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

So, you’ve probably heard by now that Maryland head coach DJ Durkin had been initially reinstated by the program at the recommendation of the Board of Regents. Now, just about 24 hours later, the university has decided to fire Durkin following backlash about the original decision.

Maryland President Wallace D. Loh announced the decision in a statement. Here is what Loh said about the decision:

Dear University of Maryland community,

I am writing to inform you of actions I am taking that are in the best interest of the University of Maryland.

Yesterday, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents announced numerous recommendations, including employment decisions about specific personnel on our campus. I accepted the Board’s recommendations. At the same time, I announced my retirement as president in June 2019.

“Since returning to campus after yesterday’s press conference, I have met with the leadership of the Student Government Association speaking on behalf of numerous student organizations; the Senate Executive Committee; Deans; department chairs; and campus leadership. The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus.

The chair of the Board of Regents has publicly acknowledged that I had previously raised serious concerns about Coach Durkin’s return. This is not at all a reflection of my opinion of Coach Durkin as a person. However, a departure is in the best interest of the University, and this afternoon Coach Durkin was informed that the University will part ways.

This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire University. I will devote the remaining months of my presidency to advancing the needed reforms in our Athletic Department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”

Durkin was placed on administrative leave in August following reports about a “toxic culture” in Maryland’s program, which surfaced after the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. An investigation into the football program was then launched.

The 192-page investigative report concluded by finding multiple failures and disturbing instances on Durkin’s part, even if it didn’t conclude a “toxic” environment. So, it was still seen as a surprise that Maryland’s Board of Regents recommended reinstatement for Durkin after all that had happened.

The tragedy in all of this is that a player died due to negligence by the coaching and strength and conditioning staffs. It originally seemed that those involved were getting let off of the hook. However, the initial decision put a serious strain between the student body/alumni/fanbase and the university, and that was a major reason for the change of heart from Maryland brass.

There were immediate repercussions about the decision to bring back Durkin within the team itself, and it had already caused division in the locker room. Multiple Maryland Terrapins football players walked out of Durkin’s first team meeting back with the team.

Maryland lawmakers were actually planning to hold a special hearing with the Board of Regents to review the decision. That also likely played a factor in today’s decision to let Durkin go.

For obvious reasons, Jordan McNair’s family was hurt by the original decision to retain Durkin. Our thoughts and prayers are with the McNair family.

The Michigan State Spartans travel to College Park, Maryland to take on the Terps this Saturday. It’s going to be interesting to see how much of a distraction this situation will be for Maryland on Saturday.