Senator: UMd. Board ‘botched’ decision after player’s death

WASHINGTON — Maryland’s University System Board of Regents “botched” critical decisions in the wake of its investigation into a football player’s death and needs to undergo a serious review, says Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD.

Van Hollen and many of Maryland’s political heavyweights are dismayed over how the state university system’s board handled the review of the death of Jordan McNair. While Van Hollen was glad to see University of Maryland President Wallace Loh reverse the board’s decision and fire football coach D.J. Durkin, he feels the panel has a lot to answer for.

“This was a decision made behind closed doors and it raises more questions than anything else,” Van Hollen said in an interview with WTOP.

He wants a review into exactly how the board came to its decision to keep Durkin and Athletic Director Damon Evans, after a lengthy inquiry into the death of McNair.

“I think we’re going to need to really review how it is that the board botched this decision-making process so badly,” Van Hollen said.

McNair, 19, died in June after collapsing on May 29 during a preseason conditioning drill and it was later determined that heatstroke was the cause of death. An investigation found trainers didn’t follow proper procedure and that his death could have been prevented.

Board of Regents Chairman James Brady resigned on Thursday, saying he didn’t want to be a “distraction.” The decision he announced earlier in the week led to a public uproar that went well beyond College Park.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who appointed Brady, joined others in criticizing the board. In a statement he released before Loh fired Durkin, the governor said the board had “let down” the university community. He has since said he supports Loh’s decision to let Durkin go.

Van Hollen remains troubled by how this has all played out.

“The way it’s been handled, especially by the board, has been a disservice to the family as well as a disservice to the standing of the University of Maryland,” Van Hollen said.

Loh has been praised for his decision to step in and fire Durkin. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 5th District, issued a statement on Thursday urging Loh to reconsider his announced retirement and continue as the head of the university. Hoyer said Loh’s tenure has “resulted in significant progress for the university.”

But others question whether Loh and Evans should stay in the wake of all that has happened.

Prominent Maryland alum and ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt said in a commentary that he doesn’t think they should stay on, suggesting there needs to be “a complete cultural reset.”

Loh said on Tuesday that he plans to retire at the end of the school year. Van Hollen said he thinks Loh has generally done a good job and he wouldn’t oppose the school president taking another look at his future.

But Van Hollen said the chief priority right now should be putting the board under scrutiny and making sure that mistakes made over the past several months don’t happen again.

Mitch Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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