COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — University of Maryland’s new interim football coach Matt Canada said the team’s culture is “great’ and “awesome” right now, days after the head coach was put on administrative leave and another coach resigned.
Practice resumed Wednesday morning, with the team focused on the game.
“Our culture right now is great, our culture right now is awesome,” he said Wednesday at the team’s practice. “Our kids are excited to practice, excited to play, they’re loving each other and at times are we grieving for Jordan, we are.”
“But our culture right now is really, really good,” Canada added, “and our staff is continuing to work to make it better.”
The program is under scrutiny following an ESPN report that discussed the “toxic” culture around the Terps football program. The university is now launching an internal investigation with the help of a third party.
The report came weeks after offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed on the practice field and subsequently died from heat stroke during a preseason workout.
Since then strength coach Rick Court resigned and head Coach DJ Durkin was put on administrative leave. Offensive coach Canada was made interim coach Saturday.
“We have changed how we practice, and also how we train our staff,” said UMD Athletic Director Daman Evans.
However, the investigation isn’t affecting workouts, Canada said Wednesday. Player health and safety are taking a priority.
“I’m an interim coach, so the decisions and all those things — we’re just moving forward,” Canada said. “They’ve done a great job of taking care of that. And obviously during camp, the lifting schedules is not as much as it would be in the offseason. We’re going in getting lifts and maintaining strength — and doing those things and all those things are encouraged.”
“Our entire staff has done a tremendous job of coming together, of bonding together, of making it about our players — and it’s amazing what we can accomplish and nobody cares about who gets the credit and we’re seeing that right now in our building,” he added.
As for the medical staff, he said, “We’re making sure everything is getting taken care of, we’ve got a great staff.”
Canada said he’s checking on reports and we’re all doing well.
Canada said he’s spoken to Coach Durkin and tried to support him in a difficult time.
“I’ve talked to Coach Durkin and to call him and to support him in a situation that’s really challenging and that’s as far as I’m gonna go with that,” Canada said.
When asked if students are coming to staff about concerns, Canada said that’s been happening since the report came out.
“In my role — my best job, I’ve been with the quarterbacks that’s my position — in the last few days I’ve met with at least 40 of the defensive players for a brief amount of time, to make sure they understand that they can come to me for whatever they need.”
“I have a very open work policy — the only person that can interrupt a meeting is a player — and I told them that,” he said.
On Saturday, when Canada was asked to be interim coach, he did speak to the team and said it’s a challenging time.
“I briefly addressed the football team and told them that this was a challenging situation, we’re all in it together, we’re gonna work through it together, we need to talk to each other, consult with each other, lean on each other, be with each other, talk to your families,” he said.
Canada said he’s been open and honest with parents as well.
“Our parents and our players want to have a good football season,” he said. “We have a meeting that Damon set up with our parents Saturday morning.”