Maryland fires DJ Durkin after backlash

In a stunning development, the University of Maryland fired head football coach DJ Durkin on Wednesday evening.

Durkin’s firing comes one day after the chair of the Maryland Board of Regents said he deserved another chance to coach the team. He had been scheduled to return to practice this week and coach Saturday against Michigan State.

That decision led to backlash from students and alumni as well as on social media. The decision announced Tuesday to retain Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans led the Maryland Student Government Association and 12 other student groups to schedule a protest rally for 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“We, the Executive Board of the University of Maryland Student Government Association, are outraged with the decisions made by the Board of Regents regarding the Maryland Football Program,” the SGA wrote in a statement on a Facebook page created for the rally.

University of Maryland president Wallace Loh released a statement addressing Durkin’s firing later Wednesday. The statement read in part: 

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 and the entire Maryland athletic department have been under fire since this summer, when 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed of heatstroke during a workout May 29. He died June 13. In the aftermath, an ESPN report uncovered a culture of intimidation in the football program. That led to Durkin’s suspension as the university investigated McNair’s death and other issues with the program.

However, that study found “no toxic culture” in the program, as alleged in the ESPN report.

Earlier this month, a group of Maryland football parents spoke out against the possible reinstatement of Durkin, saying they were “terrified” of that prospect.

According to the Washington Post, Loh informed the Board of Regents before terminating Durkin, but did not consult with them.

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Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been serving as the interim coach in Durkin’s absence and will continue in that roll. Maryland is 5-3 this year.

Durkin finishes his career at Maryland with a 15-18 record, including the games coached by Canada this year.

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