University of Maryland doesn’t care about their student athletes

Ben Borrok, Staff Writer

DJ Durkin, the former head coach of the University of Maryland’s football team, was fired for the death of Jordan McNair, a freshman who passed out during a strenuous practice on a hot spring day. Durkin almost retained his prestigious position as coach, considering that the Board of Regents decided to reinstate Durkin, who had been on paid leave while investigations were being completed. In response, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh announced that he would retire at the end of the academic year and would fire Durkin, a clear rebuke of the Board’s decision.

In college football, coaches are treated like gods; they earn salaries higher than any other employee and their sports have funding far higher than any other program at their respective universities. Coaches may even use their prominence to operate above university rules in the pursuit of success and national recognition for their teams. Durkin ran a football program that lacked dignity: there were no safety protocols implemented and coaches and trainers both verbally and physically abused players. He pushed his athletes to the brink of their abilities in the name of success, and as a result, a life was lost.

McNair suffered from heatstroke, a fairly common medical issue in the world of sports. While it does require careful treatment, treatment was widely available in this scenario. The medical professionals at Maryland were instructed to ignore McNair’s symptoms while coaches continued to bark orders at him. It was nearly half an hour before McNair was taken indoors, and by then, he had already suffered a seizure. He only received cold water immersion treatment when he arrived at the hospital, over an hour after he first collapsed.

So, even after an investigation found Durkin and other coaches culpable in McNair’s death, why did the Board of Regents decide to retain Durkin? The answer is plain and simple: it is because its members do not care about the student athletes that fund their school. The athletic department made $94.9 million in 2017 off the backs of athletes who did not see a dime of that revenue. Now, the Board of Regents expects these student athletes to be comfortable returning to the care of Durkin, as if he actually has their well-being in mind and was not responsible for the death of their teammate.

More so, Maryland has continued to display a complete disregard for black lives on campus.  This decision for Durkin to keep his position is followed by a trend of poor responses to racial incidents. In 2016, a false report of a fight at a graduation party prompted police to pepper spray black students, but the university police claimed the incident was justified. In 2017, a black Bowie State University student was murdered on the Maryland campus in an apparent hate crime. The murder quickly became a breaking point for minorities on campus to share their stories of racism and hate on campus, along with the lack of help from higher-ups to solve this issue. In addition to the murder, a noose was found in a frat house in 2017 that resulted in no charges, prompting concerns from black students over their safety on campus.

Maryland is in desperate need of an institutional change, from the Board to the athletic coaches, who will actually keep their students in mind as the priority. How can you expect the student athletes to bring funding to your institution if you treat them as poorly as Durkin did? Loh was right to fire him, and it should be a sign for the rest of those involved to follow Durkin out of the door.

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