Maryland's decision to reinstate D.J. Durkin as head football coach is sad and disturbing

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Urban Meyer

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - We sadly live in a world where the death of a player and the attempt to cover up or ignore domestic violence isn’t enough to get a college football coach fired.

I was stunned and upset to learn that D.J. Durkin would be allowed to keep his job as head football coach at Maryland, even though one of his players died from heat stroke in June, and that other players have described the culture within the Maryland football program as being toxic.

The University of Maryland board of Regents announced Tuesday that Durkin had been reinstated as head coach after having been placed on paid administrative leave in August following the June 13 death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair from heatstroke.

Durkin reportedly met with the players with no other coaches present before a regularly scheduled practice, and sources told ESPN that several players, including starters, walked out of the meeting with Durkin.

My response to that is good for the players because they have reason to be upset and to feel betrayed.

There has to be serious consequences when a player dies from the effects of a supervised workout besides the head coach being put on administrative leave for barely two months.

As it turns out, the only person truly held accountable for McNair's death was former Maryland strength coach Rick Court, who frequently degraded players by calling them names  including using antigay slurs.

Court resigned in August and was given $315,000 to help move on.

I can only imagine how McNair’s family must feel right now. They deserve better.

College football, the Big Ten Conference and our society as a whole deserves better.

ESPN reported that if Maryland President Wallace Loh hadn’t kept Durkin, the board of regents would have fired Loh and found a CEO that would retain Durkin.

If true, that makes an already disturbing story even more disturbing.

It also makes you wonder why the board of regents would be so supportive of a head coach who really hasn’t accomplished much.

Jim Brady, the Chairman of the Maryland Board of Regents, said Durkin was unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department and that it isn't fair to place all the blame at his feet."

I'm not blaming Durkin for all the dysfunction within the Maryland Athletic Department, just for McNair's death.

And shouldn't that be enough?

At least with Urban Meyer you know why Ohio State officials were willing to overlook or excuse his deplorable behavior.

Meyer’s lack of compassion, self-awareness, accountability and honesty was in full display during the investigation of former Buckeye assistant coach Zach Smith on allegations of domestic violence against his former wife.  

Meyer told reporters at Big Ten Media Day in late July that he knew nothing about the allegations even though there was proof that Smith’s former wife had told Meyer’s wife about the physical and emotional abuse.

Meyer didn’t just deny it, he more or less accused the media of making up the story despite evidence to the contrary.

Ohio State conducted its own investigation and decided that Meyer deserved a three-game suspension, which was a slap in the face to all victims of domestic violence, but especially to the former wife of Zach Smith.

It was a pathetic and disgusting example of winning at all cost and of lowering the bar of acceptable behavior to a level that should be unacceptable.

College coaches are trusted by parents to be leaders with high character, but sadly, some coaches and the schools that employ them are more concerned about winning and about protecting their image.

D.J. Durkin and Urban Meyer both should have lost the right and the privilege to be leaders of young men because neither deserves to be in such an important position.

Maybe I should’ve seen the Durkin news coming because the bar of acceptable behavior keeps being lowered.

I made the mistake of assuming that a player’s death would be enough for a coach to be terminated.

I also made the mistake of assuming that honesty and integrity still mean something in college sports, but in the case of D.J. Durkin and Urban Meyer, I was wrong.