Football coach fired a second time after player's death

By WILLIAM FEOLA
On November 12, 2018

Photo courtesy of Maryland GovPics, Wikipedia

Less than 24 hours after he was reinstated, DJ Durkin, the head football coach for the University of Maryland’s Terrapins, was fired after public pressure and backlash.

Durkin was the coach when former player Jordan McNair, 19, collapsed during workouts and later died of a heat stroke. As a result, the school put Durkin on administrative leave to investigate accusations of abuse and mistreatment of players on the field.

After months of investigations, the school’s board of regents recommended to the president that Durkin was unfairly treated and that it was not fair to place all of the responsibility at his feet. The school’s president, Wallace D. Loh, accepted the recommendation and as a result Durkin returned as head coach.

This caused an uproar across the country, and the backlash was clearly too much to handle for Maryland as they rescinded the decision and fired him.

"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," Wallace Loh, the president of the school said.

"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."

His firing caused yet another uproar, this time from those who perceived the university as too quick to crumble beneath pressure, and were upset by the university’s ability to promise Durkin’s job back and then take it away with the snap of a finger. 

Because Durkin was fired without cause, Durkin would be owed about $5.5 million. His contract was set to run through Dec. 31, 2021, and Durkin would be owed 65 percent of the $7.8 million remaining on his deal, or $5.07 million.

He will also receive nearly two months of his $500,000 annual base salary, along with a portion of the $2 million he is receiving as for participating in TV and radio shows, endorsements and making appearances on the university’s behalf. That comes out to roughly $377,000.

The University of Maryland should be ashamed of themselves for how they handled Durkin’s case. I understand that a player passed away and that people wanted Durkin gone, but an institution cannot rehire a former employee and then reverse its decision because of disagreement from outside of the organization. 

Maryland made a decision and they should have to stick with it. If Durkin was fired without reinstatement, that would’ve been fine. But they only fired him because it upset people, and that is a cowardly move that will certainly cause many to lose respect for the school and its football program. 

The university should have listened to its players and students when they initially begged the school to fire Durkin. Now, they have to live with the consequences of making such a terrible and avoidable mistake.

 

wfeola@ramapo.edu

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