Maryland accepts responsibility for player death, keeps DJ Durkin on leave during new investigation

Maryland president Wallace Loh and athletic director Damon Evans took responsibility for the June death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, 19, during a press conference held Tuesday in College Park, Maryland. However, the university has not yet made a decision regarding the status of football coach DJ Durkin, who will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the program.

Loh said that he met with McNair's parents "to express, on behalf of the university, our apology for the loss of their son. I said to them, and I said I would mention it publicly this afternoon -- but I wanted them to hear it directly from me this morning -- the university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May the 29th, which of course led subsequently to his death on June 13th.

"Based upon what we know at this time, even though the final report is not completed, I said to the family, 'The university owes you an apology. You entrusted Jordan to our care, and he is never returning home again,'" Loh added.

"Some of our policies and protocols do not conform to best practices. Some of the actions of our athletic training staff -- not the coaching staff, the athletic training staff -- they basically misdiagnosed the situation. No vital signs were taken. Other safeguard actions that should have been taken were not. For me, that was enough to say, 'I need to come and personally apologize.'"

"No Maryland student-athlete will ever be in a situation where his or her life and safety ... will be at risk, especially when that risk is foreseeable. I made that commitment to them. I'm making it now to all of our student-athletes, the University of Maryland community and all the people of Maryland." 

Loh also strongly condemned the allegations made by anonymous sources made up of current and former players, along with former staff members, in a recent ESPN article. The allegations in the story reported include verbal and mental abuses that contributed to a "toxic culture" at Maryland, which has already been under self-appointed external investigation since the death of McNair. 

"With regard to these allegations, they are totally inconsistent with what we stand for and our values, which is about education, preparing student-athletes for life and being treated with respect and dignity. You can motivate people -- push them to the limit -- without engaging in bullying and behavior. But these are allegations we have to take very, very seriously. What fair process demands is that we do a thorough investigation by an independent group and they make recommendations, and we will implement those recommendations and we will monitor the continued implementation of those recommendations," Loh added.

"Conduct that is simply inappropriate, unacceptable of alleged bullying, alleged intimidation, alleged denigration of student-athletes: My office is setup to receive -- and we receive lots and lots of expressions of concern and issues and problems from faculty, staff, students and others," Loh said. "In this case, we learned about these allegations from the media. But regardless of the source, what's important is how we address it."

Evans added "I want to be clear: I have not witnessed any behavior as what was described in the media, but it is essential that we fully review these allegations. That is why we are conducting an independent third-party review led by national leaders."

The four-person panel looking into the matter includes former U.S. District Court judge Brenson Legg, former U.S. District Court judge Alex Williams, Baltimore lawyer Charles Scheeler and a fourth, unnamed member. 

Additionally, an investigation into McNair's death will be released publicly some time in mid-September. However, Evans said during the press conference that preliminary info indicates McNair "did not receive appropriate medical care and mistakes were made by some of our athletic training personnel."

"The emergency response plan was not appropriately followed," Evans said. "Second, the care we provided was not consistent with best practices. And third, heat illness was not properly identified or treated. Our athletic training staff did not take Jordan's temperature and did not apply a cold-water immersion treatment."

Evans also announced that it had parted ways with head strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, one of Durkin's first hires. 

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is serving as the Terps' interim coach while Durkin is on leave. 

CBS Sports will update this breaking news story shortly.

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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