Yesterday the news came out that Maryland's Board of Regents fully supported DJ Durkin returning as head football coach. Shortly thereafter, the University made it official with director of athletics Damon Evans issuing a statement making it clear DJ is empowered to serve, immediately, as head coach.
As soon as word began to break, the media was quick to write their condemnation for Durkin, athletics and University leadership. Both The Athletic and ESPN were quick to report that a small number of players walked out of Durkin's first meeting with the team. The Athletic said it was three players, ESPN said "several." Maryland's roster, like most FBS programs, includes over 100 players.
We have seen (because reporters from both outlets mentioned above have publicized them) at least two players mention on Twitter their disdain that University leadership didn't hold anyone accountable for Jordan McNair's death. Many in the media took to their computers last night writing that Maryland's players should protest or even worse. One of many examples is below:
As counterintuitive as this may sound, I think it helps DJ Durkin for some of his players to voice their frustrations to him. He needs to listen to their words, publicly accept accountability for his part in Maryland football's dysfunctional culture, and explain to his players how he's going to change, and how the players' entire experience under his leadership will change. Doing so would allow Durkin to listen to his players, hear their concerns and frustrations, it would give him a chance to show them his heart, to regain their trust, to be a leader, their leader. The players need this. He needs this.
One of the reasons many who watch college football were puzzled why Maryland retained Durkin was that they believe it will be extremely tough for him to recruit moving forward. The university laid bare every problem in Durkin's program through a 192-page report, then released it to the public. Some think rival recruiters will comb through each paragraph, screen-shotting every troubling anecdote, each negative quote, to be broadcast to recruits' parents. That cat is out of the bag. To credibly recruit moving forward, Durkin needs to stand in front of cameras and explain the X, Y and Z of why he failed to create a positive atmosphere and the A, B and C of how he's going to change moving forward.
Maryland's team -- players and staff -- was forced to adapt and moved forward the past few months without him. Durkin cannot simply walk back into his office like the last two months never happened. To do so would this re-start of his coaching tenure to immediate failure. Durkin has to make amends with the people he hired and the players he recruited. He must hold his hand in the air, look his team in the eye and say, "Under my watch we made mistakes, and here's how we're going to be better moving forward."
It will be hard, necessary work. It's also his only choice.