Report: Maryland regents to recommend D.J. Durkin return as Terps football coach

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents are expected to recommend that coach D.J. Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans retain their jobs, according to a report Tuesday from the Washington Post. A press conference has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss the results of the independent investigation into the culture of the football program. The Post received a copy of that probe a week ago, which was later published online through Maryland’s website this week. 

Despite the announcement of the recommendations, a final decision on Durkin and Evans may not come during the press conference. Rather, such a decision would be the prerogative of Maryland president Wallace Loh, who does not have to follow the wishes of the board. 

That said, Jeff Ermann of Inside MD Sports, a 247Sports affiliate, reports — citing sources familiar with the situation — that Durkin is “expected to return to practice this week and return to the sidelines Saturday” for the Michigan State game.

Durkin has been on administrative leave since Aug. 11. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been serving as the interim coach during the first two months of the regular season.

Durkin, who is 10-15 in two full seasons at Maryland, was placed on leave following a damning ESPN report detailing a “toxic” culture within the Terrapins’ program in light of the offseason death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The report used interviews with both current and former players, as well as former football staffers and people close to the program. It took particular aim at Durkin and former Maryland strength coach Rick Court. 

In response, Maryland has issued two reports: one detailing the transgressions involved in McNair’s death and the other about the culture of the program. 

According to the latter report, which can be read in its entirety here, a culture of fear was prevalent under Durkin. The probe featured interviews with former players, the parents of current players, current and athletic department staff members. However, the investigation stopped short of using the word “toxic,” which was the key adjective used by ESPN’s deep investigative reporting back in August. 

“The commission found that the Maryland football team did not have a ‘toxic culture,’ but it did have a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out,” the report states. A conclusion was that while Durkin had an “open-door policy” for his players, it only applied to those whose views aligned with his. 

The report also reflected a large grey area in describing Durkin as a coach who cared about his players’ well-being but who also failed to properly oversee and manage his strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court, who parted ways with the program on Aug. 14. The report states that Court was “effectively accountable to no one” and that Durkin “claims it was not his responsibility to supervise” Court. 

Like Durkin, the investigation paints a mixed picture of Court that features good and poor reviews. However, among the more disturbing details in the report include instances in which Court would attempt to humiliate players through verbal abuse and by throwing items at them, including a trash can with vomit in it. Court denied this specific incident. 

“This included … behavior unacceptable by any reasonable standard,” the report says. “These actions failed the student-athletes he claimed to serve.”

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