WASHINGTON — The president of the University of Maryland said the school accepts “legal and moral responsibility” for the heatstroke-related death of a 19-year-old school football player last spring and has formally apologized to the player’s family.
During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, university president Wallace Loh said he has also ordered an independent commission to “review the practices and the culture” of the school’s football team after allegations from some team members that coach DJ Durkin and other coaching staff fostered a bullying climate. Addressing reporters Tuesday, University of Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans said the team’s strength and conditioning coach has already parted ways with the university in the wake of those allegations.
Jordan McNair, 19, was hospitalized May 29 after a strenuous team workout and died June 13. The university president said a team of experts that are looking into McNair’s death have concluded he did not receive proper medical treatment for heatstroke from team trainers before he was taken to the hospital.
Evans said trainers did not properly diagnose McNair as suffering from heat illness, never took his temperature and did not apply cold-water immersion treatment.
The final report into McNair’s death, which is being compiled by a team of sports-medicine experts, is expected by Sept. 15.
Loh said he and Evans met with McNair’s family Tuesday morning in Baltimore to apologize.
“Even though the final report is not completed, I said to the family the university owes you an apology,” Loh told reporters. “You entrusted Jordan to our care, and he is never returning home again.”
Evans, who was appointed athletic director in July and who said he made investigating McNair’s death his top priority, appeared to become emotional when he recounted for reporters meeting with the player’s family.
“As a father, there are no words to Jordan’s parents that are good enough,” he said. “I have looked into the eyes of a grieving mother and father and there is simply nothing good enough. We will honor Jordan’s life, and we will ensure that a tragedy such as this never happens on our campus again.”
Alongside the report into McNair’s death, the school is tasking a four-person commission, including two retired judges, with probing bullying allegations in the football program.
Head coach Durkin, who was hired by Maryland two years ago, was placed on administrative leave Saturday following a report published on ESPN about the football program’s “toxic culture,” in which players accused football coaching staff of verbal abuse and humiliation.
“We take those reports very seriously, but I think due process does require us to lay out the facts, give people a chance to respond and then we will take action,” Loh said.
At the news conference, Evans said the team’s strength and conditioning head coach, Rick Court has already left the university following the ESPN report. School officials did not describe the terms of Court’s departure from the university. Court tweeted Wednesday he had resigned.
School officials said the commission will interview players, parents, coaches and anyone else who comes forward.
The members of the commission are retired Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Maryland Ben Legg; retired judge and former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Alex Williams; and Charlie Scheeler, who a lawyer with DLA Piper, who took part in investigations of steroid use in Major League Baseball. A fourth member, yet to be named, was identified only as a “retired and respected football coach and athletic administrator from outside the university.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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