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Report: Investigation reveals culture within Maryland football not "toxic"

Following two closed door sessions from the Board of Regents at Maryland over the past week or so, we're still waiting on an official word from Maryland, but it appears we do have a bit of an update, according to a report.

According to a piece from John Domen of WTOP, the 200-page report on the inner working of the University of Maryland and its football program has come to the conclusion that the culture of DJ Durkin's football program "is not what should be considered toxic."

Domen points out that following Tuesday's meeting, a source shared that despite the findings the culture was not toxic, "a majority of the board was in favor of seeing the school move on from both coach DJ Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans." It appears the Board wants a fresh start for the program. Exactly how the school plans to do that, and what it will cost is still unknown at this time, according to Domen.

The school has faced increasing pressure and criticism following multiple national media appearances from the parents of Jordan McNair where they call for Durkin's job.

Head over to WTOP for the full piece, including what power the regents have, and don't have, when it comes to the change of personnel at schools under the umbrella of the Maryland school system.

From FootballScoop's sources over the past few weeks, we have consistently heard that Durkin was not expected to be retained. Interim head coach Matt Canada, we're told, has been pushing aggressively for the job and has the team sitting at 4-3 while handing 6th ranked Texas their only loss of the year to date (but also just got shutout at Iowa). Sources tell FootballScoop that if the Terps, under Canada's watch, were to upset Ohio State or Penn State at the end of this season Canada would have a fair shot at keeping the job (although it remains to be seen who would be making that decision). Otherwise, sources tell us the Terps would likely start fresh bringing in an experienced head coach to give the program new energy & a new culture.

Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.

Update: The report has been released. A few pertinent findings...

The conclusion of The Commission's findings is as follows:

The Maryland Football Team did not have a “Toxic Culture,” but it did have a Culture Where Problems Festered Because Too Many Players Feared Speaking Out

Toxic means “extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.”126 By definition, Maryland’s football culture was not toxic.

There was no uniform rejection of Maryland’s coaching staff, and no uniform rejection of the treatment of players, by any of the groups of stakeholders interviewed by this Commission. The lone, clear consistency was that Mr. Court’s level of profanity was often excessive and personal in nature. In light of our conclusion that Maryland’s football culture was not “toxic,” we do not find that the culture caused the tragic death of Jordan McNair.

If the culture had been “malicious or harmful,” Mr. Durkin would not have earned the loyalty and respect of many of his student-athletes and coaches. Many players interviewed by the Commission felt Mr. Durkin’s and Mr. Court’s coaching tactics reflected those of a “big time football program.” Players, parents, and staff shared stories of generosity and commitment regarding Mr. Durkin and his wife, Sarah. The mother of a former player recounted how her son’s employer said Coach Durkin’s job reference was the strongest he had ever heard. After more than ten hours of interviews with Mr. Durkin, we believe his concern for his players’ welfare is genuine.

Yet many players, parents, and coaches lodged complaints with the Commission about both Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court. Frustrations were shared about the intensity and length of practices and workouts, insufficient recovery time, and the aforementioned issues with Mr. Court. While many acknowledged Mr. Durkin is a fiery and effective motivator and communicator, they felt he could better inspire players if he made a greater effort to listen to their concerns.

Mr. Durkin advertised an “open door” policy, but many players and assistants felt this did not extend to those whose opinions did not align with Mr. Durkin’s. Some coaches feared sharing criticisms about Mr. Court. They feared retribution or dismissal of their concerns because of the closeness of Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court. Some chose, instead, to leave the program. One former assistant said “[w]hen you’re at the mercy of leadership, you don’t want to be at the mercy of their mistakes . . . I needed to get out.” Several dissenting coaches explained

they prefer a more “nurturing” approach with players. Others didn’t mind “tough love,” but cited the need for counterbalance. “If you get on a player for doing something wrong,” one coach opined, “you have to go back later . . . and put a hand on his shoulder and let him know you care. I don’t think DJ did that.”

For generations, the dynamic between coach and football player has been akin to that of parent and child. Because the coach is the authority figure, the player should respect the coach, follow the rules, and not complain. This appears to reflect the general mindset of Maryland’s players. Although Mr. Durkin created a Leadership Council to, in part, serve as a pipeline to the head coach, players rarely felt comfortable sharing concerns with him. Players also told the Commission there was little benefit in approaching Mr. Durkin with frustrations, particularly about Mr. Court, because they viewed Coaches Court and Durkin as “the same person.”

More findings from the report: