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The Decision To Keep DJ Durkin And Damon Evans At UMD Is Unnacceptable

October 30, 2018 - 8:01 pm

By Alex Woodward

After hiring an independent commision to investigate the culture of the Maryland football program in the wake of the death of offensive lineman, Jordan McNair; the University System of Maryland Board of Regents decided to reinstate DJ Durkin as head football coach and they also decided to keep school president Wallace D. Loh and athletic director Damon Evans in their current positions. 

To me, this is inexcusable and it will no doubt have a negative effect on the University for years to come. At least ONE of them should not still be employed by the University but the fact that all three of them will return is undeniably the wrong move for not just the football program but the University as a whole. 

Let's start with DJ Durkin. On the field, he has led the Terps to an 11-15 record in his time as their head coach. He is also 1-1 in the teams 2 bowl appearances the last two seasons. I don't care if he was undefeated as the teams head coach, I don't see how it's logical to bring him back. The independent commission's report on the culture of the program determined that the University did not have a toxic culture but they did say Rick Court had abusive behavior and players feared to speak up about their concerns. Rick Court was the teams strength and conditioning coach and has been described as hostile, unfiltered, abusive and one player described his treatment of players as "less than human." He is no longer with the team and it seems as if the University is willing to put all the blame on Court's shoulders. But what about Durkin's involvement? The report claims that there was confusion on who was supposed to be supervising Court and keeping him in check. The commission called that communication breakdown "a departmental failure." That's fair enough to say but we can't act like Durkin is innocent and oblivious to his surroundings. 

Court was hired by Durkin as soon as he was named head coach in 2016. They have worked together throughout their careers and Durkin said this in 2016 when asked about the hiring of his buddy Rick Court, "Rick Court, our strength coach, is our most important hire I made. That guy is unbelievable. When you’re changing a culture, that’s where it starts. And so we’ve flipped the world upside down on these guys. …”. Durkin went on to say: “Rick and I are as about in line with how we see things as you can possibly be.”​ Does that sound like a guy who doesn't know what type of person Court was? I don't think so. The fact that he mentioned changing the culture and flipping the players worlds upside down makes me think Durkin was more likely to encourage Court's behavior instead of asking him to scale it back. Also, let me repeat he said, “Rick and I are as about in line with how we see things as you can possibly be.”!!!! I mean c'mon!

This is about accountability. Players have said that they felt that Durkin and Court were "the same guy"; hence their fear to speak up about being treated improperly. You can't reinstate a man who sat idly by while his friend torments his players. You can't reinstate a man who has lost the respect of his team either (there were multiple reports today claiming multiple starters from the team walked out on a meeting held by Durkin today with his players) and you certainly can't reinstate the same man who allowed a player to die on his watch and will undeniably struggle to recruit moving forward. Bringing Durkin back does nothing but cause controversy and MORE dysfunction within the program.

What's even more despicable is the comments made today by the Chair of the University Systems of Maryland Board of Regents, James T Brady, "we all agree that we didn't provide all of the training, all of the insights a new head coach should be aware of as they move into a role, especially in a conference such as the Big 10, which is a very big time conference."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! He needed training to know not to allow a coach to throw weights at players? He needed training to know not to allow a strength and conditioning coach to force feed players until they throw up?! Give me a break. That is as lame as an excuse gets and I don't give a damn about how "big time" of a conference he is in. These are simple, decent human expectations and he failed to live up to them. Durkin is not the victim here and at this point it doesn't matter if the reports about the culture of the program were true...the damage is done and bringing him back only does more damage. 

Damon Evans should also be gone. He served as the assistant athletic director under Kevin Anderson and he has been serving as the interim AD since Anderson's sabbatical. He was also the liaison for the football program. You're going to sit there and tell me this guy had no idea what was going on? We're supposed to just think that he wasn't present for at least one of Court's "outbursts"? I'm not buying it. Not only has he overseen Durkin's tenure the entire time he has been at Maryland but he is now the acting athletic director. If the miscommunication of who Court was supposed to report to came down to a "departmental failure", isn't it safe to assume the head of that department should be let go? Nope. Not in the eyes of the University Systems of Maryland Board of Regents.

In fact, they also came to his defense at today's press conference, "we believe that Mr. Evans should be given the opporunity to lead the athletics department and accordingly we recommend to the University that he be given the opportunity. He has shared with the board his thoughts on a strong plan to address the issues he observed in the department before being appointed it's leader and we believe he is the right person to move the department forward in this critical time."

To me, you have to wash your hands of the situation. Durkin and Evans should have been easy decisions to be let go. The inside and outside perception of the athletics department has been tarnished. The easiest way to build that reputation back up is to make new hires and go in a completely new direction, not to take the same bad seeds and replant them. Recruiting for the University will be a tough sell as long as Durkin and Evans hold their positions. Even after they are gone or if they got fired, it would still be hard for parents to entrust their students well-being at a University that has, by all accounts, failed to prioritize the students over their decision makers.  

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