Jordan McNair timeline: Explaining the events that led to DJ Durkin’s firing at Maryland
Jordan McNair died in June after suffering heatstroke during a University of Maryland football workout.
Since then, reports showing that McNair’s death could have been prevented with proper medical treatment have emerged, including the findings of an independent investigation by Walters Inc.
Additionally, details of an abusive culture within the program were unearthed. The revelations led to the dismissal of head coach DJ Durkin on Oct. 31.
Sporting News put together a comprehensive timeline of the events leading up to McNair’s death and the fallout from the incident.
STEELE: DJ Durkin disaster reminds Maryland that Big Ten is too big for it
May 29, 2018: Jordan McNair suffers heatstroke at team workout
It was about 80 degrees in College Park when Maryland football players lined up for a conditioning test of 10 110-yard sprints. McNair showed signs of exhaustion midway through the test and struggled to complete it.
After the test, trainers failed to diagnose clear signs of heatstroke, including McNair hyperventilating, and did not move him indoors for more than half an hour after he complained of cramping.
At one point, according to a Maryland player, head football trainer Wes Robinson yelled, “Drag his ass across the field!” in reference to McNair. Trainers crucially did not use cold water immersion to treat McNair, which The Diamondback (Maryland’s independent student newspaper) and The Washington Post reported leads to a 100 percent heatstroke survival rate when deployed quickly.
McNair had a seizure while trainers waited for an ambulance to arrive, and a second ambulance with Advance Cardiac Life Support capabilities was needed. He reached Washington Adventist Hospital about an hour and a half after first showing heatstroke symptoms.
STEELE: Maryland late doing the right thing with DJ Durkin, so it’s still wrong
June 5: Fund created with Jordan McNair still in hospital
A GoFundMe page titled “Jordan McNair’s Family Support Fund” was started on behalf of McNair’s mother, Tonya Wilson, to help with medical expenses. The page revealed McNair received a liver transplant and was still in critical condition. More than $30,000 was raised.
The page also expressed hope for a turnaround: “Jordan’s recovery will be long. He will be in the hospital for several months and his parents deserve to be at his side throughout his recovery.”
June 13: Jordan McNair dies in hospital
Maryland head coach DJ Durkin released a statement praising McNair and pledging support for his family, but neither he nor his staff accepted responsibility in the matter.
June 14: Maryland hires Walters Inc. to conduct an external investigation
Head coach DJ Durkin, athletic director Damon Evans and team physician Dr. Frank Henn attended a press conference to announce the independent review. Summer practices were made voluntary for players until further notice.
STEELE: No accountability, only shame at Maryland
July 12: Maryland acknowledges DJ Durkin attended fatal workout, withholds Jordan McNair’s cause of death
In a release to the media, Maryland disclosed details about the workout in which McNair suffered heatstroke, including Durkin’s presence and the nature of the drills.
The university did not, however, mention that McNair died of heatstroke. Instead, officials said they would withhold that information for privacy reasons.
Maryland also resumed mandatory football practices at this time.
July 16: Jordan McNair’s family announces he died of heatstroke, begins Jordan McNair Foundation
In the McNair family’s first public rift with Maryland, it announced McNair died of heatstroke just days after public officials cited privacy as their reasoning for not releasing the cause of death. The Jordan McNair Foundation was created to educate people on the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and heat-related illnesses. The foundation established a scholarship in Jordan McNair’s name.
MORE: Twitter, famous Maryland alums react to DJ Durkin firing
July 19: For first time, news report indicates potential Maryland fault in Jordan McNair death
The Diamondback obtained a recording of the 911 call made by Maryland trainers and an emergency report from first responders relating to Jordan McNair’s initial hospital transport. From those records, the independent student newspaper concluded trainers hadn’t recognized the severity of McNair’s condition, nor did they treat him properly for heatstroke, a condition the NCAA sports medicine handbook, medical professionals and case studies suggest is fatal only when mishandled.
At this point, Maryland had not accepted any blame or responsibility, and no members of the Terrapins’ staff had been placed on administrative leave.
Aug. 3: External review into death of Jordan McNair completed
Walters Inc.’s report showed trainers failed to diagnose clear signs of heatstroke and did not treat McNair properly once they understood what he was suffering.
Aug. 10: Maryland places trainers on leave; ESPN reports on ‘toxic’ football culture
Jordan McNair’s story became national news on this day.
Maryland placed assistant strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, athletic director of athletic training Steve Nordwall and head football trainer Wes Robinson on administrative leave in response to Walters Inc.’s report.
That evening, ESPN published a story in which two current players and many people around the football program spoke anonymously about abusive practices under Court and coach DJ Durkin. These procedures — part of “a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation” — included food being slapped out of a player’s hands, verbal abuse, public humiliation and weights being thrown at players.
Maryland still had not publicly accepted blame for McNair’s death at this time.
Aug. 11: DJ Durkin placed on administrative leave
Aug. 12: Jordan McNair’s family calls for school to fire DJ Durkin
Attorney Billy McMurphy, hired to represent the McNair family, told ESPN that Durkin should be fired for Jordan McNair’s death and reports of a problematic team culture.
Aug. 14: Maryland accepts responsibility for Jordan McNair’s death, parts ways with Rick Court
University president Wallace Loh, speaking at a press conference, accepted “legal and moral responsibility” on behalf of the school for McNair’s death. Athletic director Damon Evans, also at the press conference, announced Court’s departure.
An independent commission was formed to investigate the culture of Maryland’s football program, though several of its members had ties to the program. The commission was ultimately overseen by the university’s Board of Regents.
Aug. 16: Jordan McNair’s family reiterates desire for DJ Durkin to be fired; news report indicates Wallace Loh nixed athletic training overhaul the year before
Martin McNair, Jordan McNair’s father, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “[Durkin] shouldn’t be able to work with anybody else’s kid.”
The Washington Post reported a 2017 proposal by the athletic department outlining an independent medical care model where trainers would be autonomous from the athletic department and instead report to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
This model would have aligned with NCAA recommendations, but university president Wallace Loh reportedly did not want medical decisions made by another institution.
Sept. 12: News report reveals controversial email from Wallace Loh to commission members
The Washington Post reported Loh advised the commission overseeing the investigation of the football program’s culture that some of the allegations they would be investigating “probably occur in every football program” and that the line between aggressive and abusive training techniques is “imprecise.”
Sept. 30: Commission indicates report on football culture could conclude, just as more negative news breaks
Another Washington Post report presented details of an anonymous letter, sent to officials in 2016 by a person identified by the Post as the mother of a former player, that described an abusive culture within the football program.
“The fact that [head coach DJ Durkin] allows his coaches to psychologically, physically, and emotionally abuse the athletes is paving the way for a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against the school and the coaches, alleging assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” read one part of the letter.
University president Wallace Loh had previously claimed he was unaware of issues in the Maryland football program before Jordan McNair’s death.
Oct. 25: Final commission report highlights abusive Maryland football culture; no decision on DJ Durkin made
The report stated Maryland football “lacked a culture of accountability” and “did not provide adequate oversight of the football program.” It also revealed specific homophobic slurs used by former assistant strength and conditioning coach Rick Court toward players, such as p—y and f—t.
Durkin told the commission he was aware of several instances of verbal abuse but also claimed Court didn’t “cross any lines.”
The commission decided it would take additional time to make a recommendation regarding the futures of Durkin, athletic director Damon Evans and university president Wallace Loh.
Oct. 30: Board of Regents recommends Maryland retain DJ Durkin, Damon Evans; Wallace Loh accepts recommendations; Loh announces he’ll retire in June 2019
The Tuesday afternoon news dump was met with an immediate wave of criticism. Students who thought leadership changes were necessary quickly declared their displeasure. College sports analysts around the country almost universally panned the decision.
The Washington Post reported Loh had wanted to fire Durkin but decided not to in order to keep his own job until next June.
Several players reportedly walked out of a meeting with Durkin.
Oct. 31: Mounting anti-Durkin pressure leads to coach’s dismissal
Student groups at Maryland came together to plan an on-campus protest. The event page on Facebook received more than 1,100 responses in less than a day.
Politicians around the state, including Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown, also publicly condemned the regents’ recommendation.
By the end of the day, Maryland announced it had dismissed head football coach DJ Durkin without cause, meaning it must pay him $5.1 million.
Nov. 1: Regents chairman James Brady resigns
Brady stepped down amid heavy public criticism for his leadership role in recommending Maryland keep head football coach DJ Durkin, athletic director Damon Evans and members of the training staff who were determined to be at fault in Jordan McNair’s death.
“I understand that reasonable people could come to other conclusions. And even among our board, some did,” Brady wrote in a statement. “In recent days, I have become the public face of both the board and its decisions related to these matters. In my estimation, my continued presence on the board will inhibit its ability to move Maryland’s higher education agenda forward.”
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