Board OKs $3.5M settlement between Maryland, Jordan McNair’s family

In the final step of the settlement process, the Maryland Board of Public Works voted to approve a $3.5 million agreement between the University of Maryland and the family of Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old football player who died in June 2018 after collapsing from heat stroke during a team practice.

The settlement, which was reached with the approval of the attorney general’s office, was announced Jan. 15. The Board of Public Works voted 3-0 to approve the settlement.

According to its website, the Maryland Board of Public Works — consisting of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp — has the goal of “ensuring that significant State expenditures are necessary and appropriate, fiscally responsible, fair, and lawful.”

Before the vote, the board members said changes had been made.

“It’s now been more than three years since Jordan’s senseless death, and no parent should ever have to experience the unspeakable agony that Tonya Wilson and Martin McNair have been through,” Hogan said.

“Since Day One, we have pushed for justice and we have demanded a full investigation into what happened, and into the actions of leaders of the university, and the university system,” he added. “All of this took far too long, but it has led to a set of systematic reforms, which I signed into law last year, that changed the way the university system board of regents operates. And today, we’re taking another significant step. And it’s my sincere hope that, at least in some small way, it will bring some measure of relief, some sense of justice, and some measure of closure for Martin and Tonya, and their entire family.”

Kopp said, “This was a long time coming. The suffering involved is so difficult to measure, but it has to be recognized,” adding, “I know the friends and family of Jordan McNair will be pleased to know that there really have been changes made since that terrible episode.”

Meanwhile, Franchot recognized that “No amount of money will ever bring Jordan back to his family.”

When the settlement was originally announced, attorney Hassan Murphy said that the family is “relieved that the fight is over and are eager to put this behind them as they continue to mourn Jordan’s death.”

“They are committed to channeling their grief and loss into the work that remains to protect the lives of student-athletes around the world by educating them about the signs and risks of exertional heat stroke through the Jordan McNair Foundation,” Murphy said.

An independent investigation determined that team trainers did not follow proper procedures when treating McNair. Further questioning of the football team’s culture led to the firing of then-coach D.J. Durkin and the immediate removal of the university system’s Board of Regents Chairman James Brady.

Mike Poterala, general counsel for the university, told the board Wednesday that under new protocols, a student-athlete’s injuries “would no longer be reported to the athletic department — it would be reported to the university’s health department.”

Poterala said the new chain of responsibility would leave health decisions in the hands of medical professionals rather than with a department concerned about wins or losses.

Durkin’s severance package has been reported to be about $5 million.

Murphy said his firm is committed to working with the McNair family and the Maryland General Assembly “to reform the tort laws of this state so that no family’s recovery is potentially limited by law to an amount that is less than what the responsible parties received on their way out the door.”

The university also announced that it would partner with the Jordan McNair foundation to honor McNair and promote training about heat exertion, concussions, mental health and nutrition among student athletes.

“This partnership will not only continue Jordan’s legacy, but will create a lasting impact on the health and safety of all current and future student-athletes here at Maryland and across the world,” said Maryland Head Coach Michael Locksley. “I want to personally thank Jordan’s parents, Marty and Tonya, for their selfless leadership in partnering with the University of Maryland to create something tangible that will educate and positively impact so many. Jordan will always be a part of our Maryland Football family.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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