The chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents is stepping down amid calls for his ouster after the board recommended the University of Maryland retain head football coach DJ Durkin.
"In recent days, I have become the public face of both the board and its decisions related to these matters," Chairman James Brady said in a statement Thursday. "In my estimation, my continued presence on the board will inhibit its ability to move Maryland’s higher education agenda forward. And I have no interest in serving as a distraction from that important work."
Brady announced the recommendation to keep Durkin during a news conference Tuesday about the results of an independent investigation into the culture of the UMD football program. The investigation followed the June 13 death of 19-year-old Jordan McNair, an offensive lineman who collapsed from heatstroke during a workout two weeks before he died.
The Board of Regents' recommendation to keep Durkin led to a day of backlash from students, players, former players and elected officials who thought the coach should be fired.
The office of university President Wallace Loh confirmed to NBC News' Tom Costello Wednesday evening that Durkin's contract was bought out and he will not return to the sidelines.
“I’m glad that the right thing was done to fire coach Durkin,” said Martin McNair, father of Jordan McNair, the 19-year-old offensive lineman who died of heatstroke June 13, two weeks after collapsing during a workout. “Coach Durkin was a cancer to the University of Maryland football program. I commend Dr. Loh for having the courageous effort to make the decision under hard circumstances to let Mr. Durkin go.”
“The Board of Regents’ decision was horrible — against common sense, against morality, and would have doomed the University of Maryland’s football program,” said Billy Murphy, attorney for the McNair family. “The board was in a bubble, and not all people on the board agreed with this decision, but they’re in a bubble. As a political decision they had to keep coach Durkin and to fire Dr. Loh. Fortunately, Dr. Loh had always been in favor of doing the right thing, and he did it under tremendously high-pressure circumstances to do the wrong thing, to follow what the board said. It’s wonderful that he stepped in and did this immediately to stop the bleeding.”
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Murphy also had said Brady should be fired.
In the statement announcing his resignation, Brady said he is proud of how the Board of Regents responded to McNair's death.
"From the beginning, we were determined to get all the facts before making the judgments and decisions we believed were in the best interest of the University of Maryland, College Park and its student-athletes," he said. "We hoped the lessons we would learn would positively affect student-athletes at universities across the system, the state and the nation."
He also acknowledged those on the board who disagreed with the majority of the board.
"I understand that reasonable people could come to other conclusions," he said. "And even among our board, some did. "
At Tuesday's Board of Regents news conference, Loh announced he would retire in June. Many perceived it as a forced retirement for Loh.
The University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees, which raises money for the University of Maryland, sent a letter to the Board of Regents, saying the lack of support for Loh could jeopardize millions of dollars in funding. The provost and school leadership also wrote, saying, “We believe Dr. Loh’s leadership is critical for the university at this challenging time and we call upon the Board of Regents and the Chancellor to publicly affirm its support for Dr. Loh’s continued leadership of the state’s flagship university.”
Gov. Larry Hogan, who appointed Brady, said they need to consider keeping Loh on at the university.
“I don’t know if it falls back to years ago when Dr. Loh agreed that the name of Byrd Stadium should be changed because of racism, and Mr. Brady disagreed with it,” state Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County) said. “I don’t know if that’s what lies at the base of this. Or he just didn’t like Dr. Loh’s leadership.”
The 198-page report from the independent commission of eight people said the culture of the program was not the reason behind Jordan McNair's death. The investigation determined the team "did not have a toxic culture" under head coach DJ Durkin but was problematic enough to where players feared speaking out.
The investigation found serious problems with the program that need serious reforms. Loh said plans for reform would be shared in the near future.
The commission interviewed 165 people, including 55 athletes who played for Durkin and 24 parents of players.
An external review of McNair's death found that the athletic staff made several mistakes in his treatment at the scene.
In the wake of McNair's death, an ESPN story found the culture of the program to be "toxic." The University System of Maryland Board of Regents subsequently hired the team to investigate the charges.
Rick Court, the head of strength and conditioning for the team when McNair collapsed, resigned Aug. 13. The report said there were many occasions in which Court engaged in "abusive conduct" during his time at Maryland.
The Board of Regents found Durkin failed to adequately supervise Court.
Durkin was placed on leave Aug. 11. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is serving as interim coach for the 5-3 Terrapins.