Maryland coach Durkin, three staff members suspended

Maryland Terrapins head coach D. J. Durkin is in the midst of controversy after ESPN reported a "toxic culture" within the program as part of a probe into the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair in June because of an alleged heatstroke during workouts.Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland has added head coach D.J. Durkin to the list of staff members who are now on administrative leave, after suspending three people from the athletic department earlier Saturday, multiple media outlets reported Saturday.

The Terps' program under Durkin has been scrutinized by several reports over the last two day by ESPN and other outlets regarding a "toxic" culture there.

The school previously suspended two athletic trainers and the assistant athletics director for sports performance who were reportedly involved in the fallout from the tragic death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair after a workout in June.

"I am extremely concerned by the allegations of unacceptable behaviors by members of our football staff detailed in recent media reports. We are committed to fully investigating the program," athletic director Damon Evans said in a letter on Saturday. "At this time, the best decision for our football program is to place Maryland Head Football Coach DJ Durkin on leave so we can properly review the culture of the program.

"This is effective immediately. Matt Canada will serve as interim head coach."

Canada has never been a head coach but is thrust into this role after joining the team as offensive coordinator in January following a stint at LSU in 2017. The team opens the 2018 season against Texas on Sept. 1.

Durkin, who was set to begin his third season, has a 10-15 overall record. In a Washington Post report published Saturday evening, a growing sentiment is that he will not be able to save his job given the numerous reports that have cast him and the program in such a negative light. A potential lawsuit from the McNair family also looms.

One high-level booster close to the athletic department, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, told the Post "a lot of donors are of the opinion that Durkin must go" and that there is mounting pressure on Evans to fire Durkin. Other alumni believe that the independent investigation into McNair's death must also thoroughly examine the allegations of a toxic culture within the program.

Although the school declined to name the staffers who were suspended, ESPN reported that athletic trainers Wes Robinson and Steve Nordwall along with assistant athletics director for sports performance Rick Court were put on leave pending a review of McNair's death.

A school spokesman on Friday night termed the matter a "personnel issue," according to the Washington Post.

"We will be able to speak in greater detail when the review is complete and shared with the public," the university said in a statement.

McNair died June 13. He was 19. McNair was hospitalized for unspecified reasons on May 29 after an organized team workout, and his parents said last night that heatstroke was the cause of his death.

The university hired Dr. Rod Walters to conduct a review into McNair's death. Walters is a sports medicine consultant who oversaw athletic training at Appalachian State and South Carolina.

The disciplinary action by Maryland came in the wake of a report by ESPN on Friday that depicted a "toxic" culture in the football program under Durkin.

ESPN's story, which cited current and former players as well as former staffers, detailed an "environment based on fear and humiliation." Verbal abuse and humiliating eating habits were also among the allegations.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound McNair played in one game as a true freshman in 2017 and was expected to be a key contributor in 2018.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, there were 145 cases of heatstroke related deaths in football players at all levels from 1960 to 2017, with 90 percent of deaths occurring during practices.