Nick Saban explains presence of ex-Maryland coach DJ Durkin at Alabama ahead of playoff
Durkin was dismissed following an investigation into the culture of the Maryland program
Update: Alabama and Nick Saban released a statement Friday night explaining ex-Maryland coach DJ Durkin's presence with the Crimson Tide ahead of their appearance in the College Football Playoff. "DJ Durkin is spending a few days with our staff in Tuscaloosa from a professional development standpoint," said Saban. "He has not been hired in any capacity at The University of Alabama. He is simply observing our operation as many other coaches have done through the years.
DJ Durkin was suspended in August and dismissed on Oct. 31 after a lengthy investigation into his Maryland program revealed a culture of fear created by members of the coaching staff. He has reportedly resurfaced this week. According to AL.com, Durkin has been acting as a consultant for No. 1 Alabama as the Crimson Tide begins preparation for the Orange Bowl national semifinal against No. 4 Oklahoma on Dec. 29.
Durkin was the focal point of an investigation that stemmed from the death of Terrapins offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who suffered heatstroke during a team conditioning drill on May 29 and died two weeks later on July 13. An investigation into the program revealed that members of the Maryland staff -- including former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court -- didn't notice signs of heatstroke prior to McNair collapsing at practice. More than an hour elapsed between the time he collapsed and the time a 911 call was placed. During that time, McNair reportedly suffered from seizures.
"Some of our policies and protocols do not conform to best practices," said Maryland president Wallace Loh during a press conference in August. "They basically misdiagnosed the situation. No vital signs were taken. For me, that was enough to say, I need to come and personally apologize."
After reinstating Durkin on Oct. 30, Loh fired him one day later when the Maryland community pushed back on the decision.
"I have met with the leadership of the Student Government Association speaking on behalf of numerous student organizations; the Senate Executive Committee; Deans; department chairs; and campus leadership. The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach D.J. Durkin returning to the campus," President Wallace Lohon Oct. 31.
Durkin's specific duty and potential future role with the Alabama isn't clear, but his history as a defensive-minded coach suggests that he could provide more help in developing a game plan for the Crimson Tide defense against Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray in the semifinal. Durkin previously worked as the defensive coordinator at Florida from 2013-14 and at Michigan in 2015.
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