Maryland Football: Students Should Press to Make Durkin Firing ‘For-Cause’

Maryland’s students, and its Student-Government Association, are debating the posture they should assume relative to the firing of Coach D.J. Durkin, and how to support the football players.

Because those students collectively contribute $12 million annually to the Athletic Department, the students have the right to object to the firing of former coach D.J. Durkin without cause — which will apparently, cost the school some $7 million. (A for-cause firing would cost the school nothing.)

Durkin was on premises at the time when, between 4 p.m and 6 p.m.: 1) the football team held its first practice; 2) Jordan McNair began his ten 110-yard sprints; 3) McNair collapsed after his seventh sprint; 4) McNair was hauled off the field; 5) McNair suddenly, an hour after he collapsed, began screaming at those gathered around him; and 6) 911 was called and responded, and took him to the hospital.

If D.J. Durkin did not have, at a minimum, standing instructions to any trainer or coach that, if any player remained in a coma, delerium, or other near-unconscious state for more than 20 minutes, he should be immediately be notified, then he is at least partially, if not substantially at fault for McNair’s death. And no evidence has been uncovered that Durkin had any such ‘Immediate-Notification’ mandate for his staffers.

Durkin should have been fired for-cause — and Maryland’s failure to do so was facilitated by its spending of a substantial portion of the $12 million annual funding which Maryland students provide to its athletic department. The students have moral and financial standing to press this issue with the school president — and to also take to a student referendum whether the student body favors the annual $406 ‘athletic fee’ which is assessed upon each of them.

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Maryland Football: Students Are Part-Owners, and Should Have Voice and Vote in Athletic Department

In response to the scandal surrounding the death of football player Jordan McNair, the University of Maryland student body, led by its Student Government Association, might have been the prime mover in triggering the firing of coach D.J. Durkin, and the resignation of Regents chair Jim Brady.  The courage of the SGA and the student body is commendable; it also helped expose one of the major, unrecognized structural defects in the governance of big-time college football.


Students Are Part-Owners of the Football Team

Because each of Maryland’s 30,000 students pays a mandated athletic fee of $406, the Athletic Department annually receives a total of $12 million dollars from them. Collectively, the students should be considered part owners of the football and other teams. Because of that financial support, and because the athletes are also SGA members, the SGA should have a permanent position in: 1) the Maryland athletic department; 2) football operations; and 3) any group assigned to consider and implement the recommendations set forth in the DLA Piper and Walters ‘McNair Reports.’

There is good precedent for the SGA to press for these structural changes. First, the Maryland systems’s Board of Regents has a student voting member (from UM-ES), whose presence there is most likely the result of the necessary and productive trend which developed after 1970, based upon the principle that students, as adults, should have a substantive voice and vote in governance of school operations. Second, publicly-held corporations must give shareholders a voice and vote and students, including those who perform on athletic teams, are much like shareholders, some of whom are also involved in production.

Exclusion of Students from Football Governance Helped Cause McNair’s Death

If there can be any good triggered by the McNair death  — clearly the result of the gross negligence of  athletic department personnel on May 29, and the absence of a ‘Safety First’ approach by the athletic department — it is that it has helped expose a major defect in governance of Big Ten (and other big-time) football and basketball: the exclusion of students from governance over football was a cause of McNair’s death. I make this conclusion based upon the notion that students empowered with a voice in the athletic department operations, (and assigned to regularly canvas football players about the safety issues which imperil them daily), would not have allowed the gonzo-coach mentality to take over the football program. (McNair’s death was ridiculously preventable: an 8-year old, equipped with a simple 4-point checklist, could have handled the May 29 events better than trainers and coaches did.)

The Maryland, MSU, and PSU Institutional Control Vacuum

The NCAA, conferences, and their members all purport to sanctify “Institutional Control” over athletics. But McNair’s death has shown that: 1) the Big Ten and NCAA want to have as little as possible to do with regulating safety-related issues (even deaths) caused by football, for one reason: to avoid liability; and 2) Maryland football, and the school itself, profoundly lacked Institutional Control; and 3) the resulting absence of Institutional Control was a proximate cause of McNair’s death. (The MSU-Nasser and PSU-Sandusky sexual assaults drew very similar lessons.)

The Institutional Control Vacuum Contributed to McNair’s Death

The unconscionable result, within this Institutional Control vacuum which recurs at Power 5 schools, is that no one is there, on behalf of the players, to insure that vigorous Institutional Control is imposed to protect them from the daily risk of significant injury which they encounter, and the risk of injury from win-at-all-cost coach behaviors which seem now much too common.

An excellent editorial in the Maryland student newspaper, by senior Joey Marcellino, (‘How Do You Support UMD Football Players Without Supporting the Program?) describes some conflict within the student body, as to whether students can show support for the student-players by boycotting games — or by attending more of them. Both alternatives have the same salutory impetus, which should be noted on other campuses: the need to do something to affirmatively support players who have chronically had little or no such support — or voice – in protecting their interests and bodies. The answer to his question is that structural, long-term changes in the students’ role is needed.

Institutional Control at All Power 5 Schools Must Include Student Control

It might be fair to state that the primary lesson from the McNair death (and MSU and PSU scandals) is one which the Maryland SGA (and Marcellino) have partially intuited, but not yet articulated – and one which both the Walters and DLA Piper investigative reports missed: Institutional Control at Power 5 schools must quickly be changed, to include structural changes empowering students to have a voice and vote on athletic department operations and issues.

The Maryland SGA should consider itself a $12 million per year owner-stakeholder, and demand a permanent position, voice, and vote in:  1) the Maryland athletic department; 2) football operations; and 3) any group assigned to consider and implement the recommendations of the DLA Piper and Walters ‘McNair Reports.’

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Maryland Football and D.J. Durkin: Death Penalty for the Death of a Player

Maryland 320-pound lineman Jordan McNair died. Strength Coach Court was allowed to ‘resign,’ with a $300,000 severance Now we find that the Maryland Board of Regents, which must have hired MSU Interim President Engler as Consultant-Bungler-in-Chief, has decided that Court’s boss, head football coach D.J. Durkin, need not head for any exit. Taking a cue from Donald Trump’s Ouija Board approach to evaluating people, the head of the Maryland Regents, one Jim Brady, who made his money selling temporary and other housing to institutions all over the country, has concluded that Mr. Durkin is a ‘good man’ and ‘good coach.’


Of course Mr. Durkin, he of the ‘do-your-job,’ and ‘be accountable’ coaching fraternity, told Mr. Brady and his Board that he didn’t even know if he was Mr. Court’s boss. Durkin, we all should know (though Brady could not fathom) is not what any of us — or any in the coaching community — can call a ‘stand-up guy.’  He’s a coward. He threw Court under the bus, and sucked his own thumb while he did it. Continue reading

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Maryland and MSU show that NCAA Commitment to “Welfare of the Student-Athlete” is Hogwash

We have just been informed that the NCAA has “cleared” MSU, as regards the athletic swamp which was generated by Dr. Nasser. Allowing for us all a brief moment of silence, this is still a little much. Cleared? Continue reading

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OSU Still Buries the Facts and Covers the Tracks, and Mary Jo White Will be Exposed as a Hired Gun

If you are a student in Communications or PR at a Big Ten school, you might want consider transfer, because its member schools have recently tended to write colorful Harvard Business school case studies to illustrate exactly how horribly PR crises can be handled. And, now that we’re some 8 years post-Jim Tressel scandal, I’m embarrassed, but also dismayed, to here state that, among those schools which have had serious PR crises — PSU, OSU, MSU, Rutgers, and Maryland –Penn State has done it best. Yes, Penn State. Not that they’ve done it well; just the best of a bad lot. And, now that I think of it, that list of five schools should be expanded to six, because we need to add Ohio State in twice (Tressel scandal in 2010 – ’11; then again with Meyer in ’18) Continue reading

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Mary Jo White-Wash: OSU Report Dots the ‘i’ in ‘Script Ohio’ for Meyer and AD Smith

There she is, Mary Jo White, silver tuba glinting in the sun, marching in step behind the baton-waving drum major, around and about the moving, living ‘Script Ohio‘ text message which is spelling out, O, then H, then I, then O, unfolding on the grand green pre-game OSU Horseshoe stadium, until White is at that spot, and the crowd is fully-frenzied, the band blares, and White overtly sweeps one leg out and around a quarter-turn at a time, to bow grandly, north, east, south, and then west, the crowd exploding — and then bows swiftly down to deliver her 23-page whitewash report to the sacred turf, to serve as the dot on the ‘i’ of the ‘Script Ohio.’ Continue reading

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Jordan McNair’s Death: Human Errors, Checklists, and Need for Radical Change


Jordan McNair’s death at Maryland football tells us that something is very rotten in college football safety; top-to-bottom change is needed. Some random thoughts:

1. Is there an App for that? Jordan McNair’s life would have easily been saved, had there been a 7 year old kid there, able to tap a cellphone app, to pop up the quick-and-dirty checklist for handling heat exhaustion. Atul Gawande revolutionized medicine, and slashed medical error rates, by insisting upon use of basic, simple checklists to be applied, not just in surgery, but in clinical and other situations. Gawande’s great accomplishment was finding simple ways to eliminate predictable, recurring human errors. Medical and injury practices in college football need similar checklists. Continue reading

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McNair Death: Maryland’s Non-Doctor Doing Non-Autopsy ‘Review.’ NCAA? — Safety-R-Not-Us

After collapsing at a May 29 Maryland football “organized workout,” lineman Jordan McNair was quickly hospitalized. According to a GoFundMe site set up by friends after his hospitalization, McNair had a liver transplant there, and died on June 13. The Maryland athletics department has released few details about the circumstances leading to his hospitalization and death, other than that McNair had shown some difficulty in “recovering” while performing ten 110-yd sprints. No cause of death has been announced or even alluded to. Continue reading

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Dept of Education to NCAA Player: the ‘Student-Athlete Statement’ FERPA Waiver is Illegal

The ‘Student-Athlete-Statement’ which the NCAA and school require that the player sign is no statement. It is a bewildering mash-up of cleverly-disguised efforts to induce the player to sign away every possible economic opportunity which might come his way. And it is where all the action is: when faced with antitrust challenge, or when presenting the SAS to the player, the NCAA portrays it as a mere ‘eligibility’ statement. But when the NCAA and school seek to sanction the player for violation of one or more of the thousands of rules in its manual, they claim he has agreed to be bound by them because of his SAS affirmation that he has “read and understands” them. This preposterously global pledge — which should cause any person even vaguely familiar with the impenetrable wilderness of that manual to respond with this Churchill retort: “I should think it was hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision” – serves as the primary basis for any NCAA claim that the player is bound by contract. Continue reading

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The Rice Commission, Amateurism Fog, and the Real Reason the UNC Paper-Course Decision Was Revolutionary

Poor Condoleezza Rice, up there at that lectern, staggering around, disoriented in the fog of NCAA amateurism, like so many others before her. Just as the 9th Circuit’s Judge Bybee, when he wrote the 2015 O’Bannon decision, had stumbled around in that same dudgeon fog, and plunged us all deeper-in, by concluding that “not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs.” Bybee was wrong. And the new fog he created helped blind the Rice Commission to what was in front of them. Continue reading

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