Maryland students plan protest of DJ Durkin, Damon Evans football decision
Prominent student groups and members of student government at the University of Maryland view the school’s decision to retain embattled football coach DJ Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans as part of a larger series of disheartening leadership missteps, prompting plans for an on-campus protest on Thursday.
Maryland’s Student Government Association has set up a 3:30 p.m. ET student rally to criticize the decision to keep Evans and Durkin at Maryland, despite the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair — who suffered heatstroke in a May 29 practice and died on June 13 — and reports of an abusive culture within the football program.
The event is co-sponsored by 12 student groups, including the Student Health Advisory Committee, UMD College Democrats, University of Maryland College Republicans, NAACP UMCP, UMD Pride Alliance and Graduate Student Government. At time of publishing, the event had 435 people marked as “going” and more than 1,100 listed as “interested” on the event’s Facebook page.
More: No accountability, only shame at Maryland
“We, the Executive Board of the University of Maryland Student Government Association, are outraged with the decisions made by the Board of Regents regarding the Maryland Football Program,” the SGA wrote in a statement on the page. “In order to voice the opinions of the student body, we are organizing a rally. … We will be gathering in front of McKeldin Library marching down to the steps of the Main Administration building.”
An eight-person commission released a 192-page report this week that found Maryland’s football program with Durkin at the helm “lacked a culture of accountability, did not provide adequate oversight of the football program, and failed to provide Mr. Durkin with the tools, resources, and guidance necessary to support and educate a first-time head coach in a major football conference.”
Specifically, the commission found instances of abusive behavior from former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court toward players that Durkin knew about. Durkin told the commission he heard Court call players both “p—y b—h” and “p—y f—r” in addition to other demeaning actions, though Durkin said he didn’t think Court “crossed any lines.”
A separate report put together by Walters Inc., an athletic training consulting firm, found Maryland made several critical errors in treating McNair’s heatstroke, which ultimately led to his death.
Students have largely expressed outrage after the University System of Maryland Board of Regents decided to retain Durkin and Evans, with university president Wallace Loh announcing he would retire in June.
University of Maryland undergraduate senator J.T. Stanley told Sporting News there was a lack of administrative transparency and disregard for vulnerable on-campus populations before McNair’s death and subsequent fallout, compounding the current frustration of the student body.
In 2015, a member of Maryland’s Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter was found to have sent a racist, slur-ladden email. In 2016, University of Maryland Police used pepper spray to break up a graduation party of predominantly black students. In 2017, Bowie State student 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, who was black, was fatally stabbed on Maryland’s campus by white, former Maryland student Sean Urbanski.
In each of those instances, the school faced criticism for not responding comprehensively enough and not working harder to prevent future issues. According to the Baltimore Sun, the number of black students enrolled at Maryland dropped sharply this fall. Maryland’s decision to keep Durkin and Evans, then — especially after McNair’s death and Court’s homophobic remarks to players — fits an ongoing theme in the minds of many students.
“This is the second time a black young male has died on our campus,” Maryland Pride Alliance president Maria Aragon told Sporting News. “That’s not OK. … I am tired of the university saying they’re committed to diversity and inclusion when we know that’s bulls—. They’re leaving us more vulnerable to not feeling safe.”
Aragon believes the school should have condemned Court’s anti-gay dialogue toward players by holding Durkin responsible for permitting that kind of environment.
“There was no accountability or justice in terms of, ‘Hey, this is wrong, this is hate speech and we will not tolerate homophobic comments,’” Aragon said.
MORE: Terrapins player speak out against Durkin
Several Terrapins players reportedly walked out of a team meeting with Durkin on Tuesday, and offensive lineman Ellis McKennie blasted the school on Twitter, writing, “A group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for [McNair’s] death.” Linebacker Tre Watson quote-tweeted the note with support for his teammate’s stance.
Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate. Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right. pic.twitter.com/AaZVmLGTtS
Bruh you know I’m right here with you. Accountability is something people apparently struggle too much with and yet it doesn’t hurt them, but it comes right to us and led to the position we’re in today https://t.co/HoYkAWljJ5
Durkin issued a statement to the media on Tuesday. He did not speak to reporters outside the on-campus Varsity Team House on Wednesday.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team and very much appreciate having the support of the Board of Regents,” Durkin said in the statement. “As we move forward, I am confident that our team will successfully represent the entire university in a positive way both on and off the field.”
Here’s Coach DJ Durkin leaving @TerpsFootball practice. We tried to ask him a question about today’s news, but security tried to block our view of him in a public parking lot. (@wusa9) pic.twitter.com/qp710CbW3f
MORE: Durkin reinstated for Michigan State game, per report
The university declined Sporting News’ request for comment regarding Thursday’s planned student protest and backlash from the decision to retain Durkin and Evans.
Stanley, who has been involved with student government throughout his time at Maryland, expressed disillusion with the school’s administration.
“It’s not an institution I’m proud of,” Stanley said. “It’s not an institution I would donate to. It’s not an institution I’m going to encourage my little sister to go to.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
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