The date is May 29th. The time is 4:15 p.m. It is an early summer’s day in College Park, Maryland. Temperatures during practice that day for the University of Maryland’s football team reached soaring highs, the likes of which are unfit for intense cardiovascular exercise.
It should go without saying that these conditions should compel coaches to take precautions in the interest of player safety. However, Terrapins Head Coach DJ Durkin failed miserably on this front, and the recklessness of his actions led to the death of 19-year-old redshirt freshman Jordan McNair.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that Jordan McNair is far from the first player to die of exhaustion in practice. His death may serve as further evidence of the harmful cultures of many college football programs.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches and weighing over 290 pounds, McNair was forced to run multiple 115 yard sprints despite showing clear and vivid signs of exhaustion during the drill.
At 5:00 p.m., Jordan McNair experienced a seizure as a result of stress caused from the physically exhausting workout.
The error on the part of the Maryland football staff does not end there. According to the attorney representing the McNair family, an “unexplained” hour takes place in which Jordan McNair received no treatment to alleviate his heat stroke symptoms.
According to the attorney, a 911 phone call was not made until 5:58 p.m., in which McNair was described to be “hyperventilating after exercising and unable to control his breath.”
McNair was finally admitted to a hospital at 6:36 p.m., over an hour and a half after he initially suffered the seizure. Upon arrival at a local hospital, McNair’s body temperature was checked and recorded at 106 degrees Fahrenheit. It was revealed on June 5th that McNair was in need of a liver transplant and was expected to have a long recovery in the hospital. Then, on June 13, Jordan McNair passed away while still in the hospital.
In the days following McNair’s passing, not much else happened. On June 14, Durkin released a statement asking for fans to pray for Jordan McNair’s family. That day, the Maryland Athletic Department also announced the beginning of an external review of the events that led up to McNair’s passing.
On August 3, the results of the external investigation were revealed, seemingly confirming all of the wrongdoings on behalf of the Terrapins’ coaching staff.
Also outlined in the report was the culture of fear and intimidation in the locker room established by Durkin and Strength Coach Rick Court.
Examples of abuse include slapping a meal out of a player’s hands in front of the team and the throwing of weights and other objects at players, as well as various forms of belittlement and humiliation.
Extreme verbal abuse of players was also reported, as players who were unable to compete weight lifting exercises would often have their masculinity insulted in obscenity-laced rants. It was also reported that a player was since verbally abused after passing out during a drill, much like McNair. Though many of these practices are common across the country, most around the Maryland football program agreed that Durkin’s methods were “excessive.”
One former staff member was quoted as saying that he “would never, ever, ever allow [his] child to be coached there.”
On the days of August 10 and August 11, multiple members of Maryland’s coaching staff were placed on administrative leave, including Court and Durkin.
On August 14, UMD released a statement apologizing to Jordan McNair’s family and “accepting legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes our training staff made on the workout day of May 29.” It was also confirmed that the training staff “misdiagnosed” Jordan McNair’s situation and did not take his body temperature.
As of August 17, the school’s Board of Regents had taken control of the investigation and results are still pending.