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The Maryland players must protest. Probably a boycott is best. Don't play, guys. Your lives are at stake.

Some sort of extreme dissent is all they have left. Their university abandoned them. Their strength coach humiliated them. Their head coach created a culture of intimidation. Oh yeah, and one of their brothers collapsed and eventually died running gassers while all of them watched.

Jordan McNair paid for this culture with his life.

Meanwhile, that coach, DJ Durkin, will continue to be paid and return to leading the team.

Maryland's coach somehow retained his job on Tuesday. The Athletic and ESPN both reported that at least a few players walked out of a morning meeting with Durkin in response.

Good. That's a start. After an overwrought, underdone, far-too-lengthy process that included two investigations, the absolute worst conclusion was reached by the Maryland Board of Regents.

Durkin basically got credit for time served. He was suspended with pay on Aug. 11 after a damning story was published by ESPN alleging a "toxic culture" within the program.

Durkin, who had oversight of the football program when a player died, now has oversight over the reforms to the same football program. He will continue to report to the athletic director who had oversight over Durkin's oversight. AD Damon Evans kept his job, too.

Something doesn't add up … like common decency.

The deaths just keep accumulating in this sport. The only change in improved medical care seems to come from the courts via lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits.

Approximately 30 college football players have died since 2000. The overwhelming majority of them were practicing, not playing.

Three of them -- more than 10 percent of the total in the last 18 years -- have died since June 13. That was the day McNair passed.

Forget about recruiting going forward, how does Durkin look at himself in the mirror?

Forget about football, how about Maryland being able to play football? The players at Maryland -- and any other programs who may fear for their safety -- absolutely should boycott. Send a message. This is a line in the sand for student-athlete welfare.

Now that they know a bully with a whistle is returning, they've got to retain some sort of control over their lives. They are the labor force who makes the games possible while coaches with multi-million salaries can alibi their way out of death.

Be creative, guys. Don't stop at walking out of Durkin's return. Boycott a game, the rest of the season. Football just isn't that important in comparison.

You'd think someone, somewhere would have learned. Since 2009, at least four Power Five coaches have lost their jobs after allegations of player mistreatment. None of them were in charge when a player died.

Durkin's firing would have been the least Maryland could have done as a signal to its students, the public and its players that (a) athletes shouldn't die and (b) athletes especially shouldn't die practicing.

Oh, and (c) if they do, those with oversight should be held accountable.

The Maryland Board of Regents threw their support behind a 10-15 coach (with a 5-13 Big Ten record) who was painted as a (putting it lightly) jerk at times in reports and their investigations.

This despite parents telling The Athletic they were "terrified" Durkin would return with his style based on verbal and physical abuse.

An independent commission report concluded there was no "toxic" culture. It said players were merely afraid to come forward. As if that was a plus.

Call it whatever you want -- horrible, intimidating, bullying tactics -- when you're worried about semantics, something is likely wrong with your argument.

You almost understand when the Ohio State trustees back a championship coach like Urban Meyer. It may turn your stomach after Courtney Smith's allegations, but at least you know where everybody stands: Urban equals championships; no Urban equals fewer championships.

Should be a heck of a matchup, then, when Durkin meets Meyer, his former boss, on Nov. 17 at The Shoe. There might be some mention of football for a few seconds on the telecast.

This screams for some intervention from the Big Ten and/or the NCAA. Oh sure, there is an "independent monitoring group" in place at Maryland. Durkin will be "closely scrutinized." Please, stop with the corporate speak.

Those investigations basically did nothing to dispel the conclusions reached in that ESPN story. The Board of Regents somehow decided all of it wasn't enough to fire Durkin, who they admitted was somewhat accountable, just not completely accountable.

"We believe Mr. Durkin failed to adequately supervise strength and conditioning coach Rick Court but that this failure is shared by the university's athletic department. We believe that Coach Durkin has been unfairly blamed for the dysfunction in the athletic department, and while he shares some responsibility, it is not fair to put all of it at his feet," said regents chair Jim Brady on Tuesday. "He has acknowledged his role in the athletic department's shortcomings as he served as head coach, and he has committed to reforms."

Those regents didn't have the authority to boot Durkin. That rested in the hands of Maryland president Walace Loh. ESPN reported that if Loh had not abided by the regents' recommendations and ultimately fired Durkin, the regents would have canned Loh, who happened to announce Tuesday his forthcoming June retirement.

"This is crazy," said a person close to the investigations.

All of it points to a yawning hole in that hallowed collegiate model. You should be assured of your safety when you punch in for a 50-hour a week job for which you don't get paid.

You shouldn't have a trash can full of vomit thrown in your face. (Court, the fired strength coach, denied the incident in the commission's 198-page report.)

In the business world, those in power are accountable to boards of directors, stockholders, regulatory agencies. This is more evidence in the major-college space, coaches can do whatever the hell they want. Usually, if the infractions are serious enough, they are rescued by their winning percentage.

In this case, Durkin was apparently supported by big-money regents and boosters, ones whose knowledge of football matches their empathy for Maryland student-athletes.

It took five months to reach a conclusion that is really no conclusion at all. It was the status quo, accompanied by a slap in the face.

This isn't just a football program run amok, it is an entire university.

It appears as if a man with a death on his resume will be on the sidelines Saturday when Maryland goes to Michigan State. Jordan McNair's absence on that sideline makes that a reality.

A reality that seems surreal.