The Maryland Football Scandal
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Education

The Maryland Football Scandal Exemplified The Worst In College Sports

The UMD Board of Directors made their priorities loud and clear on October 30th by initially retaining DJ Durkin, now they're left to pick up the pieces

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It seems as though that in recent years, college sports scandals are competing to see which one can appall Americans the most. The latest school to dive into the mud with its own sports scandal is the University of Maryland.

On May 29th, offensive lineman Jordan McNair suffered a heatstroke during a team workout. McNair's body temperature was at 106 degrees by the time he arrived at the hospital. On June 13th, Jordan died in the hospital at the age of 19. According to reports from ESPN, Maryland training staff waited over an hour before calling 911 when McNair started showing signs of fatigue.

The same report detailed that head coach DJ Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court fostered a "toxic culture" within the Maryland football building. Players described instances of extreme verbal abuse, grueling workouts, and coaches endorsing unhealthy eating habits. Following the reports by ESPN, DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave while an investigation was conducted.

The report presented by the UMD Board of Regents seemingly confirmed many of the claims made against Durkin and Court, going short of calling the program "toxic." By that point, most people in the sports world assumed DJ Durkin's tenure at Maryland would be over. However, the Board of Regents had other ideas.

On October 30th, the Board of Regents recommended to UMD President Wallace Loh that DJ Durkin resume as the Terrapins head coach. Despite Loh wanting to fire Durkin, the Board gave an ultimatum that if he didn't keep Durkin, he would be fired, and they would find a new president who would.

I stood in shock and horror over the news. 'How can you justify keeping him after confirming what ESPN has been reporting for months' I kept asking myself. When Ohio State kept Urban Meyer despite being aware of his assistant coach's numerous domestic assault claims, people in the sports world justified it by Meyer's 73-8 record at Ohio State and winning a National Championship with the Buckeyes in 2014. Durkin was 10-15 in his two seasons at Maryland.

After intense public outcry from UMD students, alumni, and Maryland politicians, Durkin was finally fired by the university after being reinstated just 30 hours prior. But the damage had already been done.

Maryland's football recruiting is going to take a hit because of this scandal. Because while the administrators at Maryland finally did the right thing, the actions of the Board of Regents shout to the parents of prospective college football players that they care more about protecting a deplorable head coach than protecting their student athletes.

The scandal at Maryland follows down an eerily similar path to other college sports scandals of recent memory. Each scandal is unique in their own way, but for most instances wrongdoing at these institutions are committed over money and winning.

In 2012, Maryland announced that all their sports programs would transition from the ACC, where they've been a member of for over 60 years, to the Big Ten Conference. Despite the Terrapins having little regional affiliation with the member schools of the conference, the university made the jump chasing a lucrative television contract with the Big Ten Network.

"Membership in the Big Ten is in the best strategic interest of the University of Maryland," President Wallace Loh said at the time. "Number one, by being members of the Big Ten Conference, we will be able to ensure the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for decades to come."

While the move might have made financial sense at the time, the move has yet to reap its rewards on the football field. Maryland went from a middle-of-the-road team in the ACC to a basement dweller in the Big Ten Conference. Instead of facing Florida State, North Carolina, and Virginia every season, they now face Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State every year.

In an attempt to close the competitive gap in the Big Ten, Maryland went out and hired DJ Durkin who had previously worked under Urban Meyer at Florida and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Two years into the Durkin experiment, the team isn't playing any better than it has when it joined the Big Ten and the university has been through hell and back in a scandal it easily could've avoided. All because a group of adults sold their souls to chase the almighty dollar and adopt a 'win at all cost' mentality.

This isn't just another run of the mill public relations nightmare for an institution of higher learning. The price Maryland paid was the life of a young man taken way too soon from his family.

DJ Durkin isn't directly responsible for Jordan McNair's death. However, if there wasn't a culture established that intimidated players from speaking up about unhealthy coaching practices, I'd like to think this tragedy could've somehow been avoided.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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