COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — A day after announcing he would stay on, the University of Maryland has fired head coach DJ Durkin.
The University terminated Durkin on Wednesday according to a university spokeswoman.READ MORE: People In Baltimore Protest In Solidarity, Mourning Daunte Wright's Death After He Was Fatally Shot By Police During Traffic Stop In Minnesota
Durkin will leave the University without coaching a single game in the 2018 season after a five-month-long controversy in the wake of UMD football player Jordan McNair’s collapse of heat stroke and death, along with reports of a “toxic” football culture at Maryland.
McNair, who was sophomore, died on June 13, weeks after collapsing from heatstroke during a team workout on May 29.
Jordan’s father was on UMD’s campus Wednesday night, saying that after initially having said the Board’s decision to keep him on felt like a punch in the stomach, he was now relieved.
“Relief, a gratifying sense of relief for not only my family, but Jordan’s teammates as well,” said Marty McNair.
As far as the next steps, the family’s attorney said they want to see that Loh remains president of the University and that the chairman of the Board of Regents be fired.
“Chairman Brady of the Board of Regents has to be removed immediately for making such a dimwitted and boneheaded decision that did not reflect the true values of this university,” said Billy Murphy, the McNair’s attorney.
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh released a statement Wednesday evening informing the UMD community of Durkin’s departure.
Loh informed that since returning to campus after Tuesday’s press conference, he had met with the leadership in the Student Government Association who spoke on behalf of numerous student organizations, the Senate Executive Committee, department chairs and campus leadership.
“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,” Loh said in the statement.
He added that he will devote the remaining months of his presidency to, “advancing the needed reforms in our Athletic Department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes,”
He made it known that he still plans to retire at the end of next June.
Read his full statement here.
The fate of athletic director Damon Evans remains unclear, but it seems to be unchanged. Loh’s Wednesday statement makes no mention of Evans.
This comes after the Board originally recommended Durkin stay on with UMD’s football program on Tuesday.
The Board of Regents originally recommended Durkin and the school’s athletic director, Damon Evans, stay on.
The 17-member group said the men made mistakes but did not deserve to be fired after football player Jordan McNair’s death.
“All three individuals understand and have accepted that they share responsibility for the dysfunction within the athletic department. we also found that all three individuals share our commitment to improving the culture in the university’s football program and to implement the recommendations from both the Walters report, and the independent commission,” said Jim Brady, chairman of the Board.READ MORE: Pause In Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Could Delay Maryland's Goals As Baltimore City Emerges As Potential New Hotspot
The decision received major backlash from UMD student organizations. A rally was scheduled for Thursday night to call for Durkin’s removal.
Now, UMD Student Government Association President Jonathan Allen echoes many of the same sentiments as McNair’s family and said some of the focus can now shift on rebuilding.
“This is still a fractured campus, but today was something I haven’t seen in my three plus years and today we were united,” Allen said.
Lawmakers, including the Maryland House of Delegates and Gov. Hogan both criticized the University for a lack of transparency and House Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh said the decision and announcement by the Board send the wrong message about their priorities.
“Athletics over academics is a phrase we are hearing today from our constituents. that is why the Appropriations Committee feels we must exercise our oversight,” McIntosh said.
The committee had planned to hold a hearing November 15. There is no official word on whether the hearing will take place.
Other lawmakers have come out in support for the decision, with Rep. Elijah Cummings tweeting, “The right decision was finally made by the UMD Board to part with Coach Durkin,”
He went on to say, “They must now urge President Loh to rescind his resignation and continue his strong leadership to put the proper protocols in place and ensure another tragedy like the death of Jordan McNair never happens again,” adding, “The health and safety of our students must always be our number one priority,”
Later Wednesday night, former University of Maryland System Chancellor William B. Kirwan and former Board of Regents Chairman James L. Shea spoke in support of President Loh, saying his decision will be more important to the University for more fundamental reasons.
“Dr. Loh has taken this action despite an apparent ultimatum from the Board of Regents that he must retain Coach Durkin or else be terminated as president immediately. In effect, the Board of Regents was taking the unprecedented action of determining who would be the university’s football coach,” Kirwan and Shea said.
They went on to say the Board of Regents should not be in the business of hiring or firing a football coach, nor any faculty or staff. They called upon Board of Regents Chairman Jim Brady and the Board of Regents to publicly affirm their support for the principle.
They ended their statement calling for Dr. Loh to reconsider his decision to retire in June.
“We believe Dr. Loh’s leadership is critical for the university at this challenging time and we call upon the Board of Regents to publicly affirm its support for Dr. Loh continuing leadership of the state’s flagship university,” They said.
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