What’s the matter with Maryland?
College football has a problem and it’s a huge one.
For decades, perhaps even longer, football has been seen as the most macho of sports. It’s not only physical, but even brutal at times with quarterbacks getting driven into the ground and wide receivers getting decked after catching a pass over the middle.
As rough as the game is, there are some coaches that decide to take things to another level behind closed doors. At one school, those practices were finally brought to light in a bombshell report from ESPN last week.
In other programs, practices are long and tough, which is important because a 12-game schedule can be grueling and it’s important to be in shape for it.
However, at Maryland, practices were more like boot camp with two lunatics at the helm, head coach D.J. Durkin and assistant athletic director for sports performance coach Rick Court. I guess strength coach was too specific of a way to describe Court’s job.
People got an early look at the harsh practices of the Durkin regime two years ago when the Carroll County Times stated that Durkin scheduled practices at the hottest parts of the day to help with “mental toughness” and would say “No one cares if you’re tired.”
Uh, maybe you should coach with the philosophy that if your players are exhausted, they’re not effective.
However, we shouldn’t be surprised Durkin thinks this way, considering he denies a link between concussions and CTE despite a multitude of evidence saying otherwise.
Court, apparently, was also a real peach as allegations have come out where he threw weights at players, singled out those he didn’t like and forced them to work out till they were completely drained.
Maryland coaches have also been accused of forcing underweight players to eat until they threw up and had an overweight player eat candy bars while his teammates worked out in front of him.
Not only is this abusive, it’s idiotic. How is forcing a guy to eat until he pukes going to help him gain weight? How is forcing a guy to eat candy going to get him to lose weight?
This type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated at any sane fitness center, but apparently was okay under Durkin’s leadership.
Those accusations were bad enough, but they’re nothing compared to what happened to Jordan McNair. A lineman, McNair was going through a strenuous drill where he ran 110-yard sprints.
During the 10th run, he struggled to stay upright. Maryland head athletic trainer Wes Robinson then yelled at some fellow Terrapins to hold McNair up, and less than an hour later, McNair suffered a seizure.
But nobody bothered to call 911 for almost an hour after that, and by the time McNair got to the hospital, he had a body temperature of 106 degrees. That’s high enough to result in brain damage or a coma. Fifteen days later, McNair died of heat stroke.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Maryland staff also didn’t follow basic procedures to help McNair. The preliminary findings of an external investigation said they never took his temperature, which could’ve indicated earlier that something was clearly wrong; they didn’t use cold body immersion treatment; and they apparently didn’t follow the emergency response plan correctly. These people were in charge of keeping players healthy and above all, alive, and failed miserably.
So you have a tyrant of a head coach, a ruthless “sports performance” coach and an incompetent medical staff. When you combine these things, you get a disaster and that’s what Maryland was.
That doesn’t mean Durkin didn’t have some supporters, most notably South Carolina head coach, and failed Florida Gators motivational leader, Will Muschamp. Durkin was Muschamp’s defensive coordinator when he was head coach at Florida and Muschamp made sure to defend his former protege, calling ESPN’s anonymous sources “gutless” and had “no credibility.”
This is the same guy that hurt himself punching a chalkboard in the Florida locker room to inspire his team. It obviously didn’t work as Florida lost the game.
I understand the idea of wanting to stand up for someone you have a relationship with, but these allegations are quite serious and considering a player died on Durkin’s watch, Muschamp probably should’ve stayed out the situation.
For if they’re true, those words will come back to haunt him and he’s already been pounded pretty heavily for them on social media.
Maryland is investigating Durkin, and if they find the allegations have merit, they have to fire him, which is what McNair’s parents have said needs to happen.
Otherwise, they’ll throw themselves in the same mix with other morally corrupt programs like Baylor. The question is, if they do send Durkin packing, who takes over the program? It’ll need to be someone outside the program as every current coach on the roster will have Durkin’s odor on them, whether it’s justified or not.
Durkin is just one football coach throwing decency aside and embracing abuse in the deranged belief that bullying players will result in gridiron excellence. It hasn’t worked at Maryland, that’s for sure, as Durkin is 10-15 after two seasons. While other schools are embracing new and effective coaching philosophies, others are stuck in a past that makes players out to be punching bags. It’s disgusting.
Sometimes coaches change. They realize they were wrong and they adapt to new techniques, but most don’t.
Take Court, for example. In his resignation letter, he attempts to be sincere but spends the first part of it talking about himself and doesn’t mention McNair until the third paragraph.
Then he tries to be philosophical, talking about how McNair’s death is what “we all should remember to put first when we face the future.” Umm, we’re not the problem, moron. McNair died during your time at Maryland.
If there was any doubt remaining that Court wasn’t full of crap, he ended his letter with “Go Terps!” Not “I’m sorry for what happened. or “This has completely devastated me.”
Instead, he ended it with some misplaced school spirit, which was clearly more important to him as a coach than the welfare of his players.
Maryland’s external investigation is expected to be completed by Sept. 15 and it will be interesting to see what the Terrapins do from this point on.
One thing is for certain though, the out-of-touch, disturbing philosophies of Durkin and his fellow Neanderthal coaches need to come to an end.
We, as a society, have put a lot of effort in combatting bullying of children and now we need to apply it to college football.
Because the sport has a huge problem and it’s time we dealt with it before another player dies on the practice or the playing field.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.