Maryland football program culture report

This report is the result of an investigation of the University of Maryland football program conducted by an eight-person commission reporting to the school's board of regents. Report on Maryland football culture cites problems but stops short of ‘toxic’ label

REPORT TO THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND
OF AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND FOOTBALL PROGRAM

Commissioners:

Attorneys:

Frederick M. Azar, M.D.
Bonnie Lynn Bernstein
Hon. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
Hon. Benson Everett Legg
Hon. C. Thomas McMillen
Charles P. Scheeler
Hon. Alexander Williams, Jr.
Douglas Lee Williams

Harry P. Rudo
Darryl L. Tarver
A. Neill Thupari
Thiru Vignarajah
DLA Piper LLP (US)
Jamie Lee
Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC

Matthew Porter Legg

October 23, 2018

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.

Executive Summary .........................................................................................1
A.
B.
C.
D.

II.

Our Assignment ...............................................................................................1
How We Conducted the Investigation .............................................................2
What We Found ...............................................................................................3
What We Recommend ...................................................................................14
The Scope and Methods of the Investigation ................................................16

A. The Independent Commissioners ..................................................................18
B. Interviews.......................................................................................................20
C. Documents .....................................................................................................25
III.
IV.

Introduction....................................................................................................26
Factual Background .......................................................................................28

A. Kevin Anderson becomes Athletics Director ................................................28
B. DJ Durkin is Hired as Head Football Coach .................................................38
C. Rick Court is DJ Durkinas First Hire; the Athletics Department
Changes the Reporting Structure for the Head Football Strength
Coach .............................................................................................................45
D. The Athletics Department Retains Counsel to Defend Football
Players Accused of Sexual Misconduct ........................................................62
E. aThe Last Strawa: Kevin Anderson Agrees to Go on Sabbatical .................68
F. Jordan McNair Suffers Heat Stroke on May 29, 2018, and
Passes Away on June 13 ................................................................................71
V.

Specific Allegations of Coaching and Other Staff Misconduct ....................74

A. Rick Court Alleged to Choke Injured Player with Lat Pulldown
Bar in Weight Room ......................................................................................75
B. Weights and Other Items Thrown Across Training Room............................77
C. Morning Tugs-of-War ...................................................................................78
D. Food Knocked from Playeras Hands .............................................................79
E. Player Compelled to Eat Candy Bars ............................................................82
F. Player Compelled to Eat until Vomiting .......................................................83
G. Players Exposed to Graphic Videos While Eating ........................................84
H. Player Removed from Meeting for Smiling ..................................................85
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I.
J.

Verbal Abuse of Player During Practice .......................................................86
Players being Forced to Exercise on a Stair Stepper Machine
with a PVC Pipe.............................................................................................87
K. Player Complained of Bullying to Mr. Durkin ..............................................89
L. The aChampions Cluba .................................................................................89
VI.

Culture Assessment .......................................................................................92

A. The Process of Assessing Culture .................................................................92
B. The 2016 and 2017 Football Team Survey Data ...........................................94
C. The September 9, 2018 Survey Conducted by the Independent
Commission ...................................................................................................96
D. Representative Feedback from Current and Former Players,
Parents, Coaches, and Staff .........................................................................103
E. Perspectives of Other Coaches ....................................................................124
VII. Injuries .........................................................................................................126
A. Data Comparing Injuries Suffered During Mr. Durkinas Tenure
with the Year Preceding his Inaugural Season ............................................126
B. Anecdotal Evidence .....................................................................................128
C. General Attitudes About the Handling of Injuries by Training
Staff and Others ...........................................................................................135
VIII. Player Academic Progress Under Mr. Durkin .............................................140
A. Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) and Graduation Success Rate
(GSR) ...........................................................................................................140
B. Academic Progress Rate (APR) ..................................................................144
IX. UMD Internal Controls Designed to Ensure that the Athletics
Department and Football Program Comply with Rules and Policies ....................146
A. UMD Processes and Oversight to Ensure Sound Management
of the Athletics Department .........................................................................146
B. The Athletics Departmentas Specific Internal Controls to
Ensure Compliance with NCAA and Big Ten Mandates ............................148
C. Marylandas Newly-Developed Athletic Resources in Response
to the McNair Tragedy.................................................................................151
X.

Conclusions..................................................................................................152

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A. The Players Who Spoke UpaBoth Initially and in Response to
Our InvestigationaShould be Commended ...............................................152
B. During Mr. Durkinas Tenure, the Athletics Department Lacked
a Culture of Accountability, did not Provide Adequate
Oversight of the Football Program, and Failed to Provide Mr.
Durkin with the Tools, Resources, and Guidance Necessary to
Support and Educate a First-Time Head Coach in a Major
Football Conference.....................................................................................153
C. Mr. Court, on Too Many Occasions, Acted in a Manner
Inconsistent with the Universityas Values and Basic Principles
of Respect for Others ...................................................................................155
D. Both Mr. Durkin and Leadership in the Athletics Department
Share Responsibility for the Failure to Supervise Mr. Court ......................156
E. The University Leadership Bears Some Responsibility for the
Ongoing Dysfunction of the Athletics Department .....................................158
F. The Maryland Football Team did not have a aToxic Culture,a
but it did have a Culture Where Problems Festered Because
Too Many Players Feared Speaking Out .....................................................159
G. Maryland Should Institute a Strong aMedical Modela for
Student-Athlete Care to Improve Health Outcomes and Ensure
that the University is a Leader in Collegiate Sports Medicine
Best Practices ...............................................................................................161
H. There is Common Ground to be Found Amongst All of the
Maryland Constituencies We Heard from, Providing a Basis for
Moving Forward Together...........................................................................162
XI.

Recommendations........................................................................................162

A. Strength and Conditioning Recommendations ............................................162
B. Independent Medical Care Model Recommendation ..................................178
C. Improving Accountability in the Athletics Department ..............................185
XII. Acknowledgments .......................................................................................192

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APPENDICES
Appendix 1

Model Head Coach Performance Evaluation provided by K.
Anderson

Appendix 2

Model Assistant Coach Performance Evaluation provided by K.
Anderson

Appendix 3

K. Anderson Statement (10/16/2018)

Appendix 4

Football Organizational Chart (2017)

Appendix 5

Football Organizational Chart (2018)

Appendix 6

UMD Athletics Department Matrix

Appendix 7

UMD Athletics Department Staff Organizational Chart
(8/2018)

Appendix 8

aStop The Abusea Anonymous Email

Appendix 9

Football Survey (2016a17)

Appendix 10

Football Survey (2017a18)

Appendix 11

August 10, 2018 ESPN Article

Appendix 12

Football Survey Conducted by the Independent Commission
(9/9/2018)

Appendix 13

Letter a Danielsa Attorney to UMD Athletics (8/13/2018)

Appendix 14

Email a C. Scheeler to Danielsa Attorney (8/15/2018)

Appendix 15

Welcome Letter for Survey Conducted by the Independent
Commission (9/9/2018)

Appendix 16

Text Messages Sent to Coach Durkin

Appendix 17

aRating of Perceived Exertiona Scale

Appendix 18

Athletic Council Policy on Student-Athletes

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GLOSSARY
AD

Athletics Director

CARA

Countable Athletically Related Activities

CSCCa

Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association

MAPP

Maryland Athletics Policy and Procedures Manual

NCAA

National Collegiate Athletic Association

OGC

Office of General Counsel

PDs

Position Descriptions

PRD

Performance Review and Development

S&C

Strength and Conditioning

SCCC

Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified

UHR

University Human Resources Department

UMD

University of Maryland at College Park

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I.

Executive Summary
A.

Our Assignment

On August 14, 2018, President Wallace D. Loh announced the formation of
an independent commission (the aCommissiona) to investigate allegations reported
in the media of a atoxica culture within the University of Maryland at College Park
(aUMD,a aMaryland,a or the aUniversitya) football program. At a press
conference held that day, President Loh stated that the charge of the Commission
was to areview . . . the practices and the culture of the football program . . . .a1
On August 17, 2018, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents
(the aRegentsa or aBoarda) assumed oversight and control of the investigation and
added five new members to the Commission on August 24, 2018. The Regents
reiterated the Commissionas charge: (1) to determine whether the culture of the
football program was atoxica as alleged in media reports; (2) to investigate the
specific incidents of player abuse as alleged in media reports, and any other
incidents we might uncover; and (3) to make recommendations for improving the
program.
The Commission is an investigative body; we were not tasked with
recommending or deciding whether any University employees should be retained
or terminated. We were directed not to duplicate the work of the Walters report,
1

See http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/terps/tracking-the-terps/bs-md-umd-pressconference-transcript-20180814-story.html.

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which examined the events of May 29, 2018, and Jordan McNairas tragic
death. We were, however, asked to determine whether a toxic football culture
caused his death. To summarize, we were directed to gather sufficient information
to assess Marylandas football culture and recommend best practices and protocols
to improve the program.
The Regents gave the Commission broad discretionary powers with respect
to the means and manner of carrying out this investigation. The Regents assured
the Commission that we would have the discretion to follow the evidence wherever
it led and pledged that the University would cooperate fully with the investigation.
The University, and in particular the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (the
aAthletics Departmenta or aAthleticsa), honored that pledge.
B.

How We Conducted the Investigation

We determined at the outset that the best way to assess the Maryland
football program was to speak to as many people as we could who were familiar
with the program. We reached out to every person who played football for
Maryland since Mr. Durkin was hired. We formally interviewed 165 people from
all major constituencies of the football program:
i* Student-athletes who played football at UMD under Mr. Durkin: 55
i* Parents of players: 24
i* Current and former Athletics Department staff, including coaches: 60

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i* University Officials not in the Athletics Department: 12
i* Other people with college football expertise, and miscellaneous
individuals: 14
Members of the Commission also spoke with many other people affiliated
with college football, and we obtained from the University and various witnesses
thousands of documents, including emails, text messages, and other documents
describing the relevant policies, practices, and incidents involving the football
program.
We conducted a mandatory, but anonymous, survey of the football team on
September 9, 2018, at the Gossett Football Team House (aGossetta). Ninety-four
players participated, and many provided extremely thoughtful comments.
C.

What We Found

We have chronicled events illustrating the dysfunction of the Athletics
Department from 2016 through 2018, many of which impacted the football team.
We discuss numerous allegations of coaching misconduct during that period. We
have heard contradictory accounts of many events. We have recounted all
sides of each story, to the best of our ability, letting the reader draw his or her
own conclusions.
Similarly, we encountered a broad spectrum of views about the culture of the
football program and the quality of the coaching. In Section VI, we analyze the

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results of three football player surveys conducted between 2016 and 2018. We
also compiled a diverse range of opinions about Marylandas football program from
more than two hundred people (including those who took the 2018 playersa
survey).
Based upon the totality of the evidence gathered, the eight members of this
Commission unanimously found the following:
1.

The players who spoke upaboth initially and in response to
our investigationashould be commended

Several players expressed their concerns to the media about the conduct and
culture of the football program, which were first reported in ESPNas articles of
August 10, 2018. We interviewed most of these playersaboth anonymous and
named sourcesaand feel they spoke in good faith about what they perceived as
unacceptable actions by University employees. They did not come forward with
intent to harm the University, but rather out of concern and frustration about the
program. This frustration, by all accounts, had been building for some time; the
death of teammate Jordan McNair seemingly served as a catalyst for bringing their
concerns to light.
In addition to those players who spoke with the media, the Commission
commends all the current and former players who spoke with us, or took the
survey, as part of our investigation. These individuals spoke up about their

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experiences, enabling us to evaluate the program with vital insights from those
most closely involved with, and affected by, the football program.
Some have criticized players for thwarting the longstanding sports axiom,
a[w]hat happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.a We feel strongly
that this mindset is misguided. Many athletics directors contacted by the
Commission, in fact, insist a aspeak upa culture is critical in cultivating a thriving
athletics community that prioritizes the welfare of student-athletes. Whether their
comments were supportive or critical, the football players who came forward, both
with the media and with the Commission, should be commended. We are grateful.
2.

During Mr. Durkinas tenure, the Athletics Department lacked a
culture of accountability, did not provide adequate oversight of
the football program, and failed to provide Mr. Durkin with the
tools, resources, and guidance necessary to support and educate
a first-time head coach in a major football conference

During the 2016 to 2018 seasons, the Athletics Department did not
effectively fulfill its responsibilities. University ombudsman and assistant to
President Loh, Cynthia Edmunds, described the Athletics Departmentas operations
during this period as achaos and confusion. A former coach compared the
departmentas dysfunction to aWashington [politics].a The University conducted a
Gallup Survey of employee engagement of all employees in the spring of 2016,
and then again approximately 18 months later. The survey results of the Athletics
Department employees deteriorated relative to the rest of the University, as well as

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relative to its own 2016 scores, in the second survey. Jewel Washington, the
Universityas Chief of Human Resources, stated a[h]ere [in Maryland athletics],
there is no structure. That is not normal.a
The mismanagement of the Athletics Department had adverse effects on the
football program. We find little evidence of meaningful orientation and support
for first-time head football coach DJ Durkin. The importance of providing more
robust support for football was heightened by Marylandas entrance into the Big
Ten Conference in 2014. Reporting lines between football and the Athletics
Department were blurred and inconsistent. Assistant AD for Football Sports
Performance/Strength Coach Rick Court was effectively accountable to no one,
and the training staff went relatively unsupervised for extended periods due, in
part, to a rift between the Athletics Director (aADa) and his deputy, which
permeated the entire department. There was no formal mechanism to assess
coaching performance. There was not a single performance review for Mr. Court
during his tenure at Maryland. The Athletics Departmentas compliance office
lacked a system to track complaints. As a result, warning signals about the football
program, including an anonymous email sent on December 9, 2016 (discussed in
Section IV) went overlooked.
The Commission feels there was also an insufficient level of in-person
oversight of the football program. This, specifically, pertains to former AD Kevin

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Anderson and AD Damon Evans, both during Mr. Evansas time as Deputy
AD/Football Sports Administrator and his time as Interim AD. According to
official University calendars and multiple corroborated accounts, the Departmentas
oversight of the football program was sporadic and inadequate. In contrast, many
athletics directors at aPower 5a2 football schools told the Commission both they
and the sports administrator visit practices, weight room workouts, or both, at least
once a week, particularly in season.
3.

Mr. Court, on too many occasions, acted in a manner
inconsistent with the Universityas values and basic principles of
respect for others

We spoke with Mr. Court and his counsel on three separate occasions,
collectively spanning over six hours. We interviewed dozens of players he
coached and dozens of fellow coaches and staff. The Commission believes Mr.
Court did have the best interests of the players at heart. His work, along with
others on the staff, contributed to significant decreases in injuries sustained by
players during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, compared to the prior year. He was
diligent in monitoring whether players were attending class and required team
meals. He established close relationships with some players and went abeyond the

The term aPower 5a refers to the five athletic conferences in the NCAAas Division I
Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) that traditionally represent the highest level of collegiate
football in the United States. These five conferences are the Big Ten Conference, the
Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Big 12 Conference, the Pac-12 Conference, and the Atlantic
Coast Conference. Though the term is not officially defined or recognized by the NCAA, it is
commonly known and used throughout the country by fans and media members alike.
2

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calla on a number of occasions, even arranging for extensive medical procedures
for a player suffering from an affliction developed during childhood. We heard a
mixed range of views from the players, who ranked the strength and conditioning
(aS&Ca) program as the strongest aspect of the football program in 2016, yet gave
Mr. Court very low marks in 2018.
There were many occasions when Mr. Court engaged in abusive conduct
during his tenure at Maryland, as we document. While some interviewees
dismissed this as a motivational tactic, there is a clear line Mr. Court regularly
crossed, when his words became aattackinga in nature. This included challenging
a playeras manhood and hurling homophobic slurs (which Mr. Court denies but
was recounted by many). Additionally, Mr. Court would attempt to humiliate
players in front of their teammates by throwing food, weights, and on one occasion
a trash can full of vomit, all behavior unacceptable by any reasonable standard.
These actions failed the student-athletes he claimed to serve.
4.

Both Mr. Durkin and leadership in the Athletics Department
share responsibility for the failure to supervise Mr. Court

There is considerable evidence, as described in Section IV, that there was a
lack of clarity in Mr. Courtas reporting lines. Mr. Durkin claims that it was not his
responsibility to supervise Mr. Court, but it was, by Mr. Durkinas own account, his
decision to hire Mr. Court as the strength coach. Mr. Durkin worked closely with
Mr. Court virtually every day, and Mr. Durkin delegated great authority to Mr.
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Court. It is a head coachas responsibility to establish and maintain a healthy,
positive environment for his players, and to hire coaches and staff who support
these efforts. Therefore, he bears some responsibility when Mr. Court, the
Assistant AD for Football Performance, exhibits unacceptable behavior.
At the same time, we must acknowledge factors that likely played a role in
Mr. Durkinas failure to adequately address Mr. Courtas behavior. As a first-time
head coach, Mr. Durkin heavily modeled his program after coaches for whom he
previously workedamost notably, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaughawho have
achieved great success as tough, no-nonsense leaders. Mr. Durkin was hired under
high-pressure circumstances and tasked with turning a struggling football program
into a Big Ten contender, with less funding and fan support than other conference
programs. The Athletics Department provided little education around, or support
to handle, the myriad administrative responsibilities of a head coach, tasks Mr.
Durkin had not been delegated in previous jobs as a coordinator or position coach.
The Athletics Department leadership shares responsibility for the failure to
supervise Mr. Court. The confusion over to whom Mr. Court reported is a striking
illustration of the Athletics Departmentas disarray. Mr. Courtas contract designated
the head football coach as Mr. Courtas direct report. Mr. Evans and Marylandas
current Deputy AD agree that Mr. Court was supervised by Mr. Durkin. Mr.
Anderson and Mr. Durkin, however, contend that Mr. Court reported to an

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Associate AD, Dr. David Klossner. Dr. Klossner denies this, but also states he did
supervise the S&C coach during Randy Edsallas tenure as head coach. Mr. Court
was not certain to whom he reported. Organization charts reviewed by the
Commission were inconsistent regarding Mr. Courtas reporting lines. Mr. Court
was not subject to annual performance reviews, nor was there any other concrete
mechanism by which the Athletics Department made Mr. Court accountable to the
Universityas standards. This confusion diluted Mr. Courtas accountability.
5.

The University leadership bears some responsibility for the
ongoing dysfunction of the Athletics Department

For more than two years, the Athletics Department suffered from high
leadership turnover rates, dissension, and internal rivalries. The Presidentas Office
became involved in 2016 and engineered Mr. Andersonas removal, initially by
designating him for a six-month sabbatical in October 2017. Dr. Loh candidly
states that, in retrospect, he wished he had moved sooner to change leadership.
This period of uncertainty further exacerbated ongoing turmoil in the Athletics
Department.
We recognize it can be difficult to make leadership changes, and this often
involves a protracted process. Yet, Mr. Andersonas sabbatical led to an extended
absence of effective leadership, as Mr. Evans was not named AD until July 2,
2018, about nine months after Mr. Anderson took leave.

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As discussed in Section IV, there was a schism in the Athletics Department.
The Athletics Department dysfunction was largely due to a chasm between Mr.
Anderson and Deputy AD Evans. There are competing views regarding the causes
of, and responsibility for, this division. What is clear is that this schism caused the
Athletics Department to operate at a suboptimal level for an extended period.
Based on NCAA Bylaw 6.1.1, two members of the Commission would
assign ultimate responsibility to the University leadership for the ongoing
dysfunction of the Athletics Department.3
6.

The Maryland football team did not have a atoxic culture,a but
it did have a culture where problems festered because too many
players feared speaking out

Toxic means aextremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.a4 By definition,
Marylandas football culture was not toxic.
There was no uniform rejection of Marylandas coaching staff, and no
uniform rejection of the treatment of players, by any of the groups of stakeholders
interviewed by this Commission. The lone, clear consistency was that Mr. Courtas
level of profanity was often excessive and personal in nature. In light of our

See NCAA Bylaw 6.1.1 (aA member institutionas president or chancellor has ultimate
responsibility and final authority for the conduct of the intercollegiate athletics program and the
actions of any board in control of that program.a).
4
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, available at https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/toxic.
3

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conclusion that Marylandas football culture was not atoxic,a we do not find that the
culture caused the tragic death of Jordan McNair.
If the culture had been amalicious or harmful,a Mr. Durkin would not have
earned the loyalty and respect of many of his student-athletes and coaches. Many
players interviewed by the Commission felt Mr. Durkinas and Mr. Courtas
coaching tactics reflected those of a abig time football program.a Players, parents,
and staff shared stories of generosity and commitment regarding Mr. Durkin and
his wife, Sarah. The mother of a former player recounted how her sonas employer
said Coach Durkinas job reference was the strongest he had ever heard. After more
than ten hours of interviews with Mr. Durkin, we believe his concern for his
playersa welfare is genuine.
Yet many players, parents, and coaches lodged complaints with the
Commission about both Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court. Frustrations were shared about
the intensity and length of practices and workouts, insufficient recovery time, and
the aforementioned issues with Mr. Court. While many acknowledged Mr. Durkin
is a fiery and effective motivator and communicator, they felt he could better
inspire players if he made a greater effort to listen to their concerns.
Mr. Durkin advertised an aopen doora policy, but many players and
assistants felt this did not extend to those whose opinions did not align with Mr.
Durkinas. Some coaches feared sharing criticisms about Mr. Court. They feared

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retribution or dismissal of their concerns because of the closeness of Mr. Durkin
and Mr. Court. Some chose, instead, to leave the program. One former assistant
said a[w]hen youare at the mercy of leadership, you donat want to be at the mercy
of their mistakes . . . I needed to get out.a Several dissenting coaches explained
they prefer a more anurturinga approach with players. Others didnat mind atough
love,a but cited the need for counterbalance. aIf you get on a player for doing
something wrong,a one coach opined, ayou have to go back later . . . and put a
hand on his shoulder and let him know you care. I donat think DJ did that.a
For generations, the dynamic between coach and football player has been
akin to that of parent and child. Because the coach is the authority figure, the
player should respect the coach, follow the rules, and not complain. This appears
to reflect the general mindset of Marylandas players. Although Mr. Durkin created
a Leadership Council to, in part, serve as a pipeline to the head coach, players
rarely felt comfortable sharing concerns with him. Players also told the
Commission there was little benefit in approaching Mr. Durkin with frustrations,
particularly about Mr. Court, because they viewed Coaches Court and Durkin as
athe same person.a

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7.

Maryland should institute a strong amedical modela for studentathlete care to improve health outcomes and ensure that the
University is a leader in collegiate sports medicine best
practices

To re-establish trust with the student-athletes and other constituencies it
serves, the University has no credible alternative but to become a leader in the
development and implementation of sports medicine best practices. We urge the
University to strongly consider the recommendations made in Section XI of this
report and the Walters, Inc. report of September 21, 2018, to accomplish that
objective.
8.

There is common ground to be found amongst all of the
Maryland constituencies we heard from, providing a basis for
moving forward together

While we heard both harsh criticism and high praise about Maryland
football, the players, parents, coaches, and staff were unanimous in their passion
for the program. All constituencies want the players to develop to be the best
athletes and students they can be. Many current players describe the team as a
close-knit unit, one committed to representing the University to the best of their
ability. With critics and supporters united in these objectives, the Commission
feels there is a strong climate for moving forward together.
D.

What We Recommend

The decision to commission an independent investigation provides an
important opportunity to identify deficits and address them. In this spirit, the
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Commission provides recommendations to improve the operation and oversight of
the Maryland football program in three main areas. The first addresses the S&C
program. We believe that the head football coach should not supervise the S&C
coaches, nor have the ability to hire and fire these coaches. It is, however,
perfectly appropriate for the head football coach to have input into these decisions.
We have spoken with several college athletics directors who have incorporated this
practice. We have also recommended that the University adopt voluntary
standards to ensure effective and appropriate strength coaching.
Second, consistent with the Walters, Inc. report, we recommend that the
University employ an Independent Medical Care Model. This model is designed to
ensure that all student-athlete health decisions are made by properly trained health
care personnel, without interference or influence from coaching staff or the
Athletics Department.
Third, we offer a menu of suggestions to improve the accountability of the
Athletics Department. Most pertinently, the department must maintain a log of all
athletics-related complaints and catalog and monitor how those complaints are
addressed.
Just as reasonable minds disagreed about the quality and culture of the
Maryland football program, we recognize that some will disagree with our

15

conclusions. We acknowledge that debate about the program will continue after
the release of this report. This is inevitable; perhaps even healthy.
We hope, however, that this report will contribute meaningfully to the
difficult task that lies ahead. Much work needs to be done for Maryland football to
regain the trust it has lost with some, and to reunite the Maryland constituencies
that have become factionalized. Much work also needs to be done by the
University to enact reforms that will improve the operations of the Athletics
Department and football program. The adoption of the recommendations set forth
in this report would be a valuable first step towards those goals.
II.

The Scope and Methods of the Investigation
On August 14, 2018, President Wallace D. Loh announced the formation of

an independent commission (the aCommissiona) to investigate allegations reported
in the media of a atoxica culture within the UMD football program. At a press
conference held that day, President Loh stated that the charge of the Commission
was to areview . . . the practices and the culture of the football program:a5
[The independent Commission members] will interview students,
student athletes, parents, coaches, staff and other people who want to
come forward and provide a report thatas based upon the work done
by reporters and has been published. 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 act. But this is not
going to take forever. This is going to be an expedited but yet very
5

See http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/terps/tracking-the-terps/bs-md-umd-pressconference-transcript-20180814-story.html.

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careful review with all the confidentialityaconfidentiality in terms of
allowing people to speak confidentially and candidly.6
On August 17, 2018, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents (the
aRegentsa or aBoarda) assumed oversight and control of the investigation. The
Board added five new members to the Commission on August 24, 2018, providing
a greater breadth of experience and insight.
The Regents gave us, the Commission, broad discretionary powers with
respect to the means and manner of carrying out this investigation. The Regents
assured the Commission that we would have the discretion to follow the evidence
wherever it led and pledged that the University would cooperate fully with the
investigation. The University, and in particular the Athletics Department, honored
that pledge.
The Regents agreed that the Commission could withhold information from
the Regents, such as the names of players and other individuals who spoke to the
Commission, in order to obtain relevant information in situations where witnesses
wished to share information anonymously. This decision by the Regents has
allowed us to hear from many who otherwise would have been hesitant to speak
and may not have spoken at all.

6

See http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/terps/tracking-the-terps/bs-md-umd-pressconference-transcript-20180814-story.html.

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The Commissionas investigation began two months after the tragic death of
Jordan McNair on June 13, 2018. He was hospitalized after a team workout
session on May 29, 2018. Within a week of Jordan McNairas death, the University
retained Walters, Inc., a sports medicine consulting group led by Dr. Rod Walters,
to evaluate the circumstances of the death. Mindful of this earlier independent
investigation, the results of which were submitted to the University on September
21, 2018, the Commission has not sought to re-investigate the events of May 29,
2018, and defers to the Walters, Inc. report with respect to its factual findings.
Information that we discovered that was relevant to the scope of work conducted
by Walters, Inc. was referred to Dr. Walters.
The Regents reviewed our report shortly before it was released. No material
changes were made to the report as a result of that review.
A.

The Independent Commissioners

President Loh and the Regents named eight commissioners to conduct the
investigation:
Frederick M. Azar, M.D., Chief of Staff at Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics
and Professor and Director of Sports Medicine Fellowship program at the
University of Tennessee-Campbell Clinic Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and
Biomedical Engineering.

18

Bonnie Lynn Bernstein, a sports journalist and a University of Maryland,
College Park alumna, where she was an Academic All-American gymnast.
Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., a former Maryland governor and a former captain of
the Princeton University football team.
Hon. Benson Everett Legg, a retired former Chief Judge of the United
States District Court for the District of Maryland and a former member of the
Princeton University lacrosse team, who currently serves as a neutral mediator and
arbitrator with JAMS, Inc.
Hon. C. Thomas McMillen, President and CEO of the Lead 1 Association
(which represents the athletics directors and programs of the Football Bowl
Subdivision), a former U.S. Congressman, and University of Maryland, College
Park alumnus, where he was an All-American and Academic All-American
basketball player.
Charles P. Scheeler, a DLA Piper LLP (US) lawyer and former federal
prosecutor. He served as lead counsel during Senator George Mitchellas
investigation of steroids use in Major League Baseball, and as Monitor of Penn
State University following the indictments of Jerry Sandusky and other former
Penn State officials.

19

Hon. Alexander Williams, Jr., a retired former Judge of the U.S. District
Court of Maryland, and is currently senior counsel at Silverman, Thompson,
Slutkin & White LLC.
Douglas Lee Williams, Senior Vice President of Player Personnel for the
Washington Redskins, the first African-American to start at quarterback in a Super
Bowl (he was the MVP of the game), and former head football coach at Morehouse
College and Grambling State University.
The Commission was assisted by attorneys Harry Rudo, Darryl Tarver, Neill
Thupari (all of DLA Piper LLP (US)), Jamie Lee (of Silverman, Thompson,
Slutkin & White LLC), and Matthew Legg. DLA Piper Partner Thiru Vignarajah,
a former Deputy Attorney General of Maryland, was instrumental in the drafting of
this report.
B.

Interviews

The Commission decided at the outset that the best way to assess the
Maryland football program was to speak with as many people as we could who
were familiar with the program. We started with the aconsumersa of the football
program: student-athletes who are playing currently or played during the 2016 and
2017 football seasons, along with the parents of current students.
We obtained a database including every student-athlete who played at
Maryland for Mr. Durkin, along with their email addresses and cell phone

20

numbers. There are over 200 players on this list. The Commission reached out
individually by email and cell phone to every current and former player. We also
hand-delivered our contact information to every current player. We repeatedly
assured current and former players that we would preserve their anonymity if they
preferred to speak without attribution. We established offices on campus, away
from the football complex, for interviews. On two occasions (August 24, 2018,
and September 9, 2018), a Commission member also addressed the full team at
Gossett, thanking the players for their cooperation and offering those who had not
yet come forward the opportunity to speak with us confidentially.
Maryland football held a parentsa weekend and intra-team scrimmage on
Saturday, August 18, 2018. We worked with the football parentsa liaison group to
invite all parents to speak with us. The Athletics Department also sent a
memorandum to all parents inviting them to speak with us. We had six
Commission members and staff lawyers available for in-person meetings, and we
completed nine interviews of parents that day. For parents living far from campus,
or who could not make the weekendas events, the Commission subsequently
conducted phone and video interviews.7

7

On September 30, 2018, the Washington Post published an article containing allegations by
Kimberly Daniels, the mother of Elijah and Elisha Daniels, twins who had played at Maryland.
See https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/motivation-or-abuse-maryland-confrontsfootballs-fine-line-as-new-allegations-emerge/2018/09/30/e7ab028e-c3dd-11e8-b338a3289f6cb742_story.html?utm_term=.043c5f6b2975. Ms. Daniels advised the Washington Post
that she lacked faith in this investigation because the Commission had not contacted her or her

21

On October 4, 2018, the Athletics Department held a meeting for parents of
football players. A Commission member attended that meeting to listen to the
parentsa perspectives. Parents who could not attend were invited to participate by
phone.
Maryland made available for interview every member of the University with
whom we asked to speak. This included every member of the football coaching
and S&C staffs, the leadership and staff of the Athletics Department, athletic
trainers and medical personnel, and other representatives of the University of
Maryland ranging from student interns to the President of UMD.
We met with the Maryland personnel who were placed on leave on August
10 and 11, 2018, including Head Football Athletic Trainer Wes Robinson,
Assistant ADaDirector of Athletic Training Steve Nordwall, Assistant AD for
Football Sports Performance/Strength Coach Rick Court, and Head Football Coach
DJ Durkin. We interviewed Mr. Court and Mr. Durkin three times each. All told,
we spent over ten hours interviewing Mr. Durkin, and over six hours interviewing

sons. In fact, the Commission attempted to contact Ms. Daniels and her sons the very first day of
this investigation. Commission member Charles Scheeler sent an email, dated August 15, 2018,
to Roderick Vereen, an attorney representing Ms. Daniels and her sons. Mr. Vereen had
previously instructed the University that all efforts to communicate with his clients should be
made through him. (It is a violation of legal ethics rules to contact a person directly who is
represented by a lawyer). Mr. Scheeler invited the former players to speak confidentially with
the Commission about their experiences. Mr. Vereen did not respond to the email. After the
Washington Post article was published on September 30, we made several more attempts to
contact Ms. Daniels through her attorney, by both phone and email. Mr. Vereen never
responded.

22

Mr. Court. We interviewed Randy Edsall, who was the Maryland football teamas
head coach from 2011 to 2015. We also interviewed many former Maryland
assistant football coaches and Athletics Department administrators, including
former AD Kevin Anderson.
In addition, we utilized an online, anonymous survey to obtain feedback
from the 2018 Maryland football team. This survey was conducted by
RealRecruit, Inc., which shared the results with the Commission, but did not
provide any information that would allow us to identify responses from particular
players. This survey tool did, however, allow us to follow up with players
regarding information they shared in the survey, but without enabling the
Commission to know the names of the players involved. We made use of this
feature. Ninety-four players out of the 112 players on Marylandas roster
participated in this survey, providing more than 1,600 comments.
Finally, we consulted with a number of people outside the University
community. These included high school coaches from a number of schools whose
alumni have played football at Maryland recently, athletics directors and officials
at other aPower 5 Conference schools,a and counsel for Jordan McNairas family.
We also spoke with many individuals who reached out to us to share their opinions
and impressions.

23

All told, we spoke with 165 people. We had multiple interviews of many
key participants. The breakdown of interviews is as follows:
i* Student-athletes who played football at UMD under Mr. Durkin: 55
i* Parents of players: 24
i* Current and former Athletics Department staff, including coaches: 60
i* University Officials not in the Athletics Department: 12
i* Other people with college football expertise, and miscellaneous
individuals: 14
The Maryland Athletics Department had previously conducted surveys of
the football team following the 2016 and 2017 football seasons. We analyzed the
responses of 48 players from the 2016 season and 20 players from the 2017 season.
Neither the breadth and depth of the factual basis of this report, nor our
confidence in our findings and recommendations, would be possible without the
voluntary cooperation of the individuals who spoke with us. The Commission is
grateful to those individuals who collectively shared hundreds of hours of their
time so that our report would include their perspectives. But, in our view, they
shared a common goal to give us their honest assessment of the University and its
football program.

24

C.

Documents

Because the Commission holds no subpoena power, we could neither
compel the production of documents, nor require individuals to meet with us. We
made dozens of requests to the Athletics Department, the University
Administration, and various individuals. We received thousands of pages of text
messages, emails, and other documents in response.
We obtained documents from a variety of third-parties and public sources,
including documents that were provided by those whom we interviewed. We
reviewed many newspaper articles and comments posted on social media
platforms. Specific documents are quoted throughout this report, and key
additional documents are contained in the Appendices. Some documents were
provided on the condition and with the understanding that they would not be
shared publicly, which we have respected.
It would be impossible for the Commission to obtain every relevant fact or
to investigate every rumor or allegation. Nevertheless, from the dozens of voices
we heard and the hundreds of documents we reviewed, we gained detailed,
nuanced, and thoughtful perspective on the University of Maryland football
program. We are confident that the Commission garnered sufficient information
for us to write a credible and informative report that accurately assesses the
football program and its culture. This information, we believe, also allows us to

25

make recommendations on how to improve that program for the benefit of the
student-athletes who represent Maryland on the football field. It is to the players,
present and future, to whom we dedicate our work.
III.

Introduction
Maryland is one of our nationas oldest land grant academic institutions; its

forerunner, the Maryland Agricultural College, was chartered in 1856.8 The State
of Maryland took full control of the college in 1916, which was renamed the
University of Maryland in 1920.9 It has long served as one of the nationas leading
state universities, and its faculty has included three Nobel Prize winners.
Football has long played a central role in University life; the first football
team took the field in 1892.10 Maryland currently fields 11 intercollegiate
womenas teams and eight intercollegiate menas teams in addition to supporting
numerous club sports teams. Of these, the leading revenue-generating sport is
football.
In the ninety-eight seasons of University of Maryland football, the team has
played in three conferences: the Southern Conference, the Atlantic Coast
Conference, and, since 2014, the Big Ten Conference.11 Twenty-one different

8

See https://www.umd.edu/history-and-mission/timeline.
See https://www.umd.edu/history-and-mission/timeline.
10
See https://static.umterps.com/custompages/pdf/football/fbrecordbook.pdf.
11
See https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/maryland/index.html.
9

26

head coaches have led the University of Maryland football team since 1917,12 and
the team won the National Championship in 1953.13
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (aNCAAa) was established to
amaintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program
and the athlete as an integral part of the student body.a14 Maryland is a Division I
member institution of the NCAA. This division includes the most competitive
football programs in college athletics.
Division I member institutions, like Maryland, are governed by
commitments to various principles, such as institutional control and compliance,
student-athlete well-being, and sound academic standards.15 Moreover, they are
obligated to apply and enforce NCAA a[l]egislation governing the conduct of
intercollegiate athletics programs . . . .a16
Consistent with the objectives of the NCAA and Big Ten Conference, the
UMD Athletics Mission Statement sets forth the goals of the Athletics Department:
We educate, develop, and serve student-athletes through a culture of
academic and athletic excellence.

12

See https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/maryland/coaches.html.
See https://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/college-football-national-championshiphistory.
14
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual at 1.
15
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual at 12.
16
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual at 1.
13

27

Our vision is to be the best intercollegiate athletics program while
producing graduates who are prepared to serve as leaders in the local,
state, and global communities.17
IV.

Factual Background
Our charge was to investigate the culture of the Maryland football program

under Coach Durkin. We endeavored to stay within the bounds of this mandate.
During our investigation, however, it became evident that during this time period,
there was significant dysfunction in the management of the Athletics Department,
which compromised that departmentas abilities to support and oversee the football
program. This context is important to understand the shortcomings in the
operations of the football program that we found. Accordingly, we begin with the
hiring of Kevin Anderson, who served as AD until October 2017, when he was
placed on sabbatical.
A.

Kevin Anderson becomes Athletics Director

On October 10, 2010, Kevin Anderson was named AD, succeeding Debbie
Yow. Mr. Anderson came from the United States Military Academy, where he
was AD from 2004 to 2010.18 Following the 2010 season, UMD bought out head

17

See https://umterps.com/news/2016/4/5/209289861.aspx.
See http://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/21021467/maryland-now-says-athleticdirector-kevin-anderson-not-leave.
18

28

football coach Ralph Friedgenas contract and hired Randy Edsall, formerly the
head football coach at the University of Connecticut.19
Mr. Andersonas relationship with President Loh was never strong.
According to Mr. Anderson, the relationship began to deteriorate in late 2011,
when the University eliminated eight intercollegiate sports due to budgetary
constraints.20 Both recognized the financial difficulties confronting the Athletics
Department facing the University, but differed as to the best course to address the
problem.
Mr. Andersonas tenure as AD was marked by a high rate of turnover within
the department. Mr. Anderson initially replaced four members of a six-person
Athletics Executive Team (excluding Mr. Anderson himself). By the end of the
2011a12 academic year, he had installed his own executive team of eight
administrators. Over the next five years, the Executive Team ranged between five
and eight people (excluding Mr. Anderson himself). Fourteen executives exited
the team during that period (a 200% turnover rate). These changes included four
development directors in a five-year period. In contrast, during Ms. Yowas last
five years as the Maryland AD, five people departed from the Athletics
Department executive team, a more typical turnover rate.
19

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2011/01/02/AR2011010202231.html.
20
See https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/11/22/maryland-will-cut-eight-teamsmitigate-athletic-budget-deficit.

29

Several current and former staff members attribute the high turnover rate to
Mr. Andersonas practice of afreezing outa staff in whom he had lost confidence.
According to several staff members, Mr. Anderson would stop inviting the person
to meetings, even those relating to the personas duties, and his communications
with the person would decrease dramatically. His conduct was described by two
interviewees as apassive aggressive.a As a result, while those who were afrozen
outa technically still carried their titles, in practice they were no longer provided
the access and information they needed to do their jobs. These individuals
naturally sought employment elsewhere, whether inside or outside UMD.
Mr. Anderson, however, points out that most personnel who departed left for
jobs with greater responsibility.21 He also contends that his successor, Mr. Evans,
drove out at least one executive team member.22
Mr. Anderson hired Damon Evans as Senior Associate AD on December 1,
2014. Mr. Evans had served as AD at the University of Georgia from 2004 until

21

Specifically, Mr. Anderson recalled that former Deputy AD Nathan Pine is now the AD at
College of the Holy Cross, former Senior Associate AD Randy Eaton is now the AD at Western
Carolina University, former Senior Associate AD Tim McMurray is now the AD at Texas A&M
University a Commerce, former Deputy AD Joe Foley is now the Senior Associate AD at The
Pennsylvania State University, and former Associate AD J Batt is now a Senior Associate AD at
the University of Alabama.
22
We interviewed that former team member. That individual corroborated Mr. Andersonas
account as to his/her departure. A current staff member indicated, however, that the former team
member, at the time immediately prior to his/her departure, complained of having been frozen
out by Mr. Anderson. Another current staff member advised that the individual who departed
had, in fact, been frozen out by Mr. Anderson pursuant to the then-proposed organizational
matrix.

30

2010.23 Mr. Evans resigned from his post at Georgia in 2010, after an arrest on a
DUI charge.24 Prior to Mr. Evansas hiring, President Loh called the President of
the University of Georgia, Michael Adams. President Adams stated that Mr. Evans
had accepted complete responsibility for his misconduct and resigned without a
request from President Adams that he do so. According to President Loh,
President Adams said that he would hire Mr. Evans again if he had the opportunity.
Mr. Anderson conducted substantial due diligence before giving Mr. Evans a
second chance. Specifically, Mr. Anderson consulted with President Adams,
Vince Dooley, former Head Coach and AD at the University of Georgia, and Joe
Castiglione, AD at the University of Oklahoma, who worked with Mr. Evans at the
University of Missouri. Each of these individuals endorsed the hiring of Mr.
Evans. Prior to joining UMD, Mr. Evans had also been working as a consultant for
two senior Athletics staff members on efforts to improve Maryland football ticket
sales. Both Athletics Department staff members were impressed by Mr. Evans and
his work, and conveyed their thoughts to Mr. Anderson.
Initially, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Evans worked well together. But as the
2015a16 academic year drew to a close, several individuals in the Athletics
Department observed a deterioration in the relationship between the two men.
23

See https://umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/university-maryland-names-damon-evans-athleticdirector.
24
See https://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/georgia-athletic-director-damonevans-resigns-after-dui-arrest-070510.

31

During that school year, five of the seven members of Mr. Andersonas executive
team left their posts.
In 2016, Jewel Washington, Assistant Vice President and Chief of the
University Human Resources Department (aUHRa), and Michele Eastman, Chief
of Staff to President Loh, as well as Dr. Loh himself, attempted to address the
management problems within the Athletics Department. Mr. Anderson advised
Ms. Washington of his view that Mr. Evans was trying to undermine Mr. Anderson
and take his job. Mr. Anderson states that he later learned that Mr. Evans was
periodically going over his head and outside the chain of command by bypassing
him and speaking directly to President Loh about athletics matters, including the
renegotiating of Mr. Andersonas contract.25 Once Mr. Anderson discovered this,
he instructed Mr. Evans not to meet with Dr. Loh.
Both Mr. Evans and Dr. Loh deny these meetings took place. Instead, Mr.
Evans reports that he would have occasional meetings with Dr. Loh regarding
general athletics matters, such as the renovation of Cole Field House. Mr. Evansas
calendars reflect nine meetings that included Dr. Loh in 2016 (one of which may

Mr. Evansas calendar also disclosed 24 meetings between January 1, 2016, and October 1,
2017. Mr. Evans became Acting Athletics Director in fall 2017. Mr. Anderson says he was not
aware of these meetings between the Chief of Staff and Mr. Evans, and viewed this as
insubordination when we advised him of this. Mr. Evans and Ms. Eastman describe this as
normal interactions between the seconds-in-command of the Athletics Department and
Presidentas Office.
25

32

have been one-on-one), and six in 2017 through the middle of October (when Mr.
Evans became the Acting AD), none of which were one-on-one meetings.
On several occasions, Mr. Evans advised the Presidentas Chief of Staff,
Michele Eastman, that he had no ambitions to oust Mr. Anderson; indeed, he
remained grateful that Mr. Anderson had given him a second chance when no one
else was willing to do so. Ms. Eastman believed that Mr. Evans was genuine in
these remarks.
Ms. Eastman reached out to other Athletics Department members to get a
better sense of how the department was functioning. She was told that Mr.
Anderson was advising people to abypass University proceduresa and that staffers
were leaving because of Mr. Andersonas management style. The Presidentas
Office considered retaining an executive coach to advise Mr. Anderson but
ultimately did not do so.
President Loh met with Mr. Anderson regularly. On occasion, Dr. Loh tried
to convince Mr. Anderson that his job was not in jeopardy. Nevertheless, morale
within the Athletics Department continued to deteriorate. A long-serving and
highly-regarded UMD head coach reported that Mr. Anderson had frozen him/her
out as well. The coach attributed this to his/her having served on the AD search
committee in 2010 and not selecting Mr. Anderson as his/her first choice. He/she

33

reported that he/she had been unable to get Mr. Anderson to speak with him/her for
over a year.
On May 19, 2017, Mr. Anderson sent a memorandum to President Loh
proposing a anew integrated program in Sports Medicine . . . [to] be launched on
July 1, 2017.a Associate AD for Sports Performance David Klossner had worked
extensively on this project and was a principal author of the memorandum
(working with Dr. Andrew Pollak, the University of Maryland Medical System
Chair of Orthopaedics, and others). Dr. Klossner reported to Mr. Evans, but Mr.
Evans claims he did not learn of the memorandum until he was asked about it by
President Lohas Chief of Staff. By that time, however, Mr. Anderson had
effectively afrozen outa Mr. Evans as well. A key feature of the plan was to ensure
trainer independence: aalthough daily roles and responsibilities of the athletic
trainers will remain unchanged, supervision and clinical medical care will be
independent of any influence of the UMD Athletics Department.a
The Presidentas Office responded to the proposal with questions about costs,
whether the athletics trainers had been consulted (they had not), whether some
employees would be transferred from one UMD entity to another entity (they
would, which raised questions about the employees possibly losing seniority and
potential accrued benefits), and whether UMD would lose the authority to hire and

34

fire trainers (they would). Ultimately, President Lohas Chief of Staff advised Dr.
Klossner:
Iad like to meet about this . . . . I donat understand why this is
necessary, and realized this when I could not explain it well enough to
Dr. Loh for him to understand. In addition, I worry it will cost more
in the long run, and that we are ceding hiring and firing of UMD
employees to another institution.26
During this same time period, Mr. Anderson stripped Mr. Evans of many of
the latteras responsibilities, further fueling tensions. Mr. Evans recalls that Mr.
Anderson told him about his reduced authority while they were golfing with a
donor. Mr. Anderson alleged in an email to Dr. Loh that he was being undermined
by his staff:
I am . . . very concerned about anonymous allegations that have been
directed against me by Department of Athletics staff. These
allegations are quite serious and reflect quite negatively on both my
personal and professional reputations. . . .
I am now strongly considering seeking legal representation to respond
on my behalf. I take my responsibilities quite seriously and am
concerned that these allegations were calculated to undermine my
authority as the Director of Athletics.
Please advise me as when you would like to meet to continue our
discussions about the administrative structure in the Athletics
Department.

Ultimately, the Presidentas Office declined the proposal because it did not want to
surrender authority for hiring and firing of staff to another institution, but acknowledged that it
might make sense to revisit the proposal once the new sports medicine facility was operating in
the renovated Cole Field House.
26

35

That summer, President Loh invited both Mr. Anderson and Mr. Evans to his
home. There, President Loh instructed them to develop position descriptions
(aPDsa) for both of their jobs and to share these PDs with the Athletics staff.
These PDs would clarify the scope of the two leadersa activities, so as to avoid
aturf battlesa and inform the staff as to which leader should be consulted for a
given issue. Essentially, Mr. Anderson would serve in an external role, dealing
with alumni and the Big Ten Conference, and effectively act as CEO of the
department. Mr. Evans would assume a COO-like role, overseeing internal
operations.
According to Dr. Loh, Mr. Anderson initially ignored the order to circulate
the PDs to his executive team. President Loh considered this refusal to be
ainsubordination,a and he again instructed Mr. Anderson to share the PDs with his
team. After meeting with Dr. Loh, Mr. Evans recalls developing the first draft of
the PDs, which were then revised by Mr. Anderson and circulated to his executive
team.
Meanwhile, the Athletics Department was saddled with other management
challenges relevant to football. Cynthia Edmunds, who served as University
ombudsman and as an assistant to President Loh, was enlisted in early 2016 to
mediate disputes between members of the football training staff. Ms. Edmunds
found discord between the head trainer, Steve Nordwall, and the trainers he

36

supervised, as well as tension between Mr. Nordwall and his supervisor, Dr.
Klossner. Dr. Klossner concluded from these discussions that he should no longer
supervise the trainers, and accordingly he stopped doing so. Ms. Edmunds,
however, states that Dr. Klossner was merely advised to supervise Mr. Nordwall,
Dr. Klossneras direct report, and let Mr. Nordwall supervise his subordinates. This
left Mr. Nordwall effectively unsupervised for an extended duration.
Mr. Anderson states that he developed a plan for decisively addressing the
antagonism amongst the trainers, but he was informed by UHR that his plan would
not be implemented. He adds that he also developed a program for evaluating
athletics coaches and shared with us the forms that were created. See Appendices
1 and 2 (Head Coach and Assistant Coach Performance Evaluation Forms).27 Mr.
Anderson maintains that UHR prevented this initiative from moving forward.28
Overall, rather than working as a cohesive unit to ensure the health and well-being
of the student-athletes under their care, members of the Athletics Department
consistently failed to communicate with one another, as some staff members were
preoccupied with their own internal dysfunction.
Ms. Edmunds departed from the situation as UHR personnel became
involved. She described the operation of the Athletics Department during this
27

The University treated coaches like tenured professors, meaning that they were not subject
to annual performance reviews.
28
Mr. Anderson provided us with a statement about his tenure at UMD, which is included as
Appendix 3.

37

period as achaos and confusion.a Her assessment was echoed by others, including
a former coach who complained of press leaks designed to undermine certain
personnel and a lack of trust in the Athletics Department. The coach compared the
dysfunction to aWashington [politics].a
UMD conducted Gallup employment engagement surveys during this
period, which confirmed the turmoil in the Athletics Department. In early 2016,
the Athletics staff responded to the first Gallup survey, and the engagement results
compared favorably with campus-wide averages. In a second survey, conducted
18 months later, the Athletics Department engagement results decreased
dramatically, falling below campus-wide averages. Mr. Anderson scored in the
27th percentile (2016) and 29th percentile (2017) in employee engagement
compared to Gallup peer data among other colleges and universities.29 In contrast,
Mr. Evans was nationally rated in the 61st percentile (2016) and 73rd percentile
(2017) in employee engagement as assessed by his direct reports. This placed him
among the highest rated leaders in any UMD department.
B.

DJ Durkin is Hired as Head Football Coach

In the fall of 2015, Mr. Evans assumed supervisory duties over football,
relieving then-Deputy AD Kelly Mehrtens of her role. On October 11, 2015, Mr.

29

Mr. Anderson, as AD, was assessed by all members of his department.

38

Anderson announced Randy Edsallas dismissal as head coach.30 Mr. Anderson
states that Mr. Edsall was having a good year recruiting incoming freshmen for the
2016a17 season, and he wanted to provide Mr. Edsall an opportunity to finish the
season successfully. But Dr. Loh told Mr. Anderson that he was getting pressure
from important constituents to terminate Mr. Edsall immediately.
Dr. Loh vigorously denies that he raised the subject of Mr. Edsallas firing.
According to Dr. Loh, the firing was Mr. Andersonas idea. Mr. Evans concurs that
the idea originated with Mr. Anderson, and he says he was never aware that Dr.
Loh had any views on the issue. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley served as
interim head coach for the remainder of the season.31
Mr. Anderson led the search for the new head football coach, which resulted
in two finalists. Mr. Anderson says that the entire search committee, including
himself, supported Mr. Durkin except for one member. Mr. Andersonas due
diligence regarding Mr. Durkin included speaking with Tyrone Willingham, Jim
Harbaugh, Jeremy Foley, Urban Meyer, Chris Kingston, former AD of Bowling
Green State University, and Michael Wilcox, a distinguished alumnus from
Bowling Green. All had worked with Mr. Durkin, and, according to Mr.
Anderson, all strongly endorsed Mr. Durkin.

30
31

https://umterps.com/news/2015/10/11/210413491.aspx.
https://umterps.com/news/2015/10/11/210413491.aspx.

39

Mr. Anderson recalls being particularly impressed when he interviewed Mr.
Durkin and his wife, Sarah, at Mr. Durkinas home. It was clear to Mr. Anderson
that the Durkins were a ateam,a with Sarah as invested in the development of
student-athletes as her husband. In Mr. Andersonas experience, that quality in a
marital relationship is often a strong indicator of a successful college coach.
Dr. Loh interviewed the finalists and also supported Mr. Durkin. Dr. Loh
and Mr. Durkin agree that, aside from that meeting, they did not have a personal
relationship.
On December 2, 2015, Mr. Durkin was announced as the new head coach of
the UMD Football Team.32 Mr. Durkin had previously served as an assistant coach
of several successful football programs.33 He was 37 years old and had never
served as a head coach before.34
Mr. Durkin reported to Mr. Evans, as his sport supervisor, but also had a
direct relationship with Mr. Anderson. This is not unusual; at many schools, the
AD has the closest relationship with the football coach.
Mr. Durkin states that he received no orientation or help with the
responsibilities of being a first-time head coach: managing a staff, ensuring

32

https://umterps.com/news/2015/12/2/210551572.aspx.
https://umterps.com/news/2015/12/2/210551572.aspx.
34
On November 22, 2014, Mr. Durkin served as head coach of the University of Florida
football team for one game after the previous head coach announced that he was resigning. See
http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/11921415/dj-durkin-coach-florida-gators-bowlgame.
33

40

compliance with NCAA rules and University policies, hiring staff, and obtaining
equipment. He found the Maryland bureaucracy to be more challenging than what
he had experienced at other schools.
In this respect, as part of our investigation, we requested and received
numerous organizational charts from UMD, including those focusing on football
and those describing the Athletics Department as a whole. See Appendices 4 and
5, Football Organizational Charts from 2017 and 2018, respectively. These charts,
while helpful in conducting our interviews, were frequently described by those
identified therein as not being accurate representations of how reporting actually
functioned. Moreover, apart from a amatrix,a we learned that the Athletics
Department did not have an organizational chart in place for several years. See
Appendix 6. We received a chart dated August 2018, which post-dated our
request. See Appendix 7.
Jewel Washington, the UHR Chief, described several deficiencies she
observed in Athletics.35 First, at her prior employer, she worked with the AD to
train head coaches on managing their staff. In the case of a first-time coach like
Mr. Durkin, training also included borrowing from best practices derived from the
NCAA, the Big Ten Conference, and other sources, as well as learning how to
35

The Athletics Department had a dedicated human resources professional, but she did not
report to UHR. According to the UHR Chief, this made it difficult to bring the Athletics
Department in line with best practices to ensure that its members were held accountable to
performing their assigned duties.

41

follow UMD processes. Second, Ms. Washington would establish a performance
management system to evaluate the members of the athletics department, including
coaching staffs.
None of this happened, however, upon Mr. Durkinas arrival.36 According to
Ms. Washington: a[h]ere [in Maryland athletics], there is no structure. That is not
normal.a
Mr. Anderson, on the other hand, recalls spending considerable time
overseeing the football program. He says that once or twice a week, he either
observed practices, joined the team for meals, or attended football team events. He
also says he met with Mr. Durkin weekly to provide mentoring and address issues.
Mr. Anderson also recalls that, on at least three separate occasions, he had
prominent speakers come to address the players and coaching staff about
establishing the right culture around the football program. Mr. Anderson believes
that both Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court attended at least two of the presentations.
Mr. Evans states that he also visited the football team or staff about one to
two times per week. He says he would typically visit for 20 to 30 minutes to try to
establish relationships. Mr. Evans says that four departing assistant coaches came

According to Dr. Loh, it was Mr. Andersonas responsibility to ensure that new head
coaches received appropriate orientation and training.
36

42

to share their experiences with him, without Mr. Evans asking, which shows the
types of relationships he forged.
Mr. Durkin recalls events differently. He insists there was no consistent or
regular oversight by Mr. Anderson or Mr. Evans. Mr. Durkin does not recall Mr.
Anderson being around on a consistent basis even as frequently as once a week.37
Mr. Durkinas recollection is that Mr. Anderson occasionally went to practice,
stayed for 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes with Mr. Evans, and then left. Mr. Durkin
would then see Mr. Anderson again at practice a few weeks later, for the same
amount of time. Mr. Durkin also does not recall Mr. Anderson being at many
meals, other than Friday team meals before road games, which Mr. Anderson
attended because he was traveling with the team.
We examined the calendars of Mr. Anderson, Mr. Evans, and Mr. Durkin,
which all support Mr. Durkinas recollection. The calendars note a aweekly
meetinga from time to time, but these did not occur weekly. The contacts between
Mr. Durkin and either Mr. Anderson or Mr. Evans were sporadic according to the
calendars.38 Mr. Evans adds that his visits were not always planned, and thus not
always calendared.

37

According to Mr. Durkin, the frequency with which Mr. Evans observed the football
program was similar in nature to Mr. Andersonas habits, and Mr. Anderson and Mr. Evans often
visited together.
38
Mr. Andersonas and Mr. Durkinas calendars reflect that they met 15 times in 2016 and
three times in 2017 per Mr. Andersonas calendar, and eight times in 2016 and two times in 2017
per Mr. Durkinas calendar. Mr. Evansas and Mr. Durkinas calendars reflect that they met 14

43

Mr. Anderson also claimed that he instructed Mr. Evans, who supervised
football, to spend more time observing the program. When, according to Mr.
Anderson, Mr. Evans failed to do so, Mr. Anderson cited this shortcoming in Mr.
Evansas final performance review. We reviewed Mr. Evansas performance reviews
for 2016 and 2017 and did not see any such remarks.
Mr. Durkin arrived with ideas to make Marylandas program more
competitive with its Big Ten Conference rivals. He was successful in
implementing a new dietary program for the players, and there are now two
dieticians on staff. He also successfully worked with medical staff to create a new
policy for administration of pain medications to players, thereby minimizing the
risk of addiction.
Mr. Durkin was less successful with other initiatives. He states that he
repeatedly requested that a physician be assigned to cover every football practice,
and Mr. Anderson has confirmed that Mr. Durkin made this request. This is not
the custom at many schools, but some universities do provide this staffing for the
football team.39 Mr. Durkin asked for a psychologist dedicated solely to the

times in 2016, eight times in 2017, and seven times in 2018 per Mr. Evansas calendar, and one
time in 2016, one time in 2017, and seven times in 2018 per Mr. Durkinas calendar.
39
According to our Commission experts on this subject, Dr. Fred Azar and Doug Williams, it
is uncommon for a physician to be present for the entirety of every practice. Mr. Williams states
that the Washington Redskins have a physician on-site only on Wednesdays and game days. Dr.
Azar reports that a physician is on-site for scrimmages for the team he handles (the University of
Memphis). The presence of physicians at college football practices range from having someone
at every practice to no coverage at all. Many Division I universities have a physician attend at

44

football team. The University hired one, but Mr. Durkin was not satisfied because
the football team had to share the psychologist with all other intercollegiate teams,
and Mr. Durkin felt this would compromise her ability to adequately serve the
needs of all 110 football players. Mr. Durkin also tried to establish a group to look
into the schoolas marijuana testing policy, attempting to transform it from a
punitive to a therapeutic model.
In interviews with the Commission, Mr. Durkin expressed frustration with
the level of support, and the lack of communication, he received from Athletics.
He was particularly upset when UMD reorganized the doctors providing care to the
football players. Mr. Durkin felt that one physician, who had treated football
players for several years, was trusted by the players. This physician was removed
from her position without prior notice to, let alone input from, Mr. Durkin.
C.

Rick Court is DJ Durkinas First Hire; the Athletics Department
Changes the Reporting Structure for the Head Football Strength
Coach

Prior to Mr. Durkinas tenure, the Associate AD for Sports Performance, Dr.
Klossner, served as the direct supervisor of S&C coaches for all UMD
intercollegiate sports. It was unusual to have S&C coaches report to an Athletics
Department administrator in addition to their respective head coaches, but,

least some portion of practices. Some schools have a physician present at an on-campus student
health facility or a nearby training room where a physician is seeing non-football athletes.

45

according to a former administrator, Maryland was aahead of the curvea in that
regard. The reason for this supervisory structure was that S&C coaches were
vulnerable to the influences of their coaching staffs, whose competitive interests
might not always coincide with what medical and conditioning experts might think
was best for the players. An Associate AD could help shield S&C coaches from
these influences by being responsible for performance evaluations and hiring and
firing decisions.
Prior to the hiring of Dr. Klossner, UMD student-athletes across different
sports sustained a high number of ACL injuries.40 Dr. Klossneras initial duties
included modifying UMDas S&C programs to try to lower injury rates and enhance
student-athlete safety.
Coach Durkinas first hire was Rick Court, who served as the Assistant AD
for Football Performance, or in common parlance, Head Football S&C Coach.41
Mr. Anderson delegated authority to Mr. Durkin to make this hire.
Mr. Court and Mr. Durkin first met when they worked together on the
football staff at Bowling Green in 2005. Prior to coming to UMD, Mr. Court
worked at The Mississippi State University for Agriculture and Applied Science
(commonly known as Mississippi State University) as the Head S&C Coach for the
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, more commonly known as the aACL,a are
frequently serious injuries, but they are unfortunately common in football.
41
See https://www.clarionledger.com/story/sports/college/mississippi-state/2015/12/07/msustrength-coach-headed-maryland/76926592/.
40

46

entire athletics program, with an emphasis on football.42 The Commission spoke
with Scott Stricklin, the former Mississippi State AD during Mr. Courtas tenure
there. Mr. Stricklin tells the Commission that he did not recall any employment or
misconduct issues with Mr. Court at Mississippi State.43 It should be noted that the
circumstances under which Mr. Court was hired at Mississippi State differed
greatly from those at Maryland. Mississippi Stateas head coach had already been
at the Mississippi State for five seasons, and he had engineered a resurgence
entailing several seasons in which the football team was ranked in the Top 25
nationally. Conversely, as one of the early hires during Mr. Durkinas tenure, Mr.
Court was tasked with helping Mr. Durkin craft a strategy for a middling program
that would enable them to compete in the Big Ten.
Mr. Durkin advised that he considered various factors before hiring Mr.
Court; in addition to his personal knowledge of Mr. Court, he had previously
spoken with three of Mr. Courtas prior supervisors: Mickey Marotti, Urban Meyer,
and Dan Mullen.44 Based on his conversations with all three, Mr. Durkin believed
that Mr. Court was highly qualified for the position that Mr. Durkin had in mind.

42

See https://www.cscca.org/members/mscc/member?id=757.
Mr. Stricklinas name is used with his consent.
44
Mr. Court coached with these individuals during their times with the following institutions.
Mickey Marotti was the head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Cincinnati
from 1990 to 1997. Urban Meyer was the head coach at Bowling Green from 2001 to 2002.
Dan Mullen was the head coach at Mississippi State from 2009 to 2017.
43

47

The dysfunction in the Athletics Department is illustrated by the confusion
over who supervised Mr. Court. Mr. Durkin advised us that he understood from
Mr. Anderson that Dr. Klossner was responsible for supervising Mr. Court.45 Mr.
Anderson agrees that Dr. Klossner was supervising Mr. Court.
But Mr. Courtas contract states that he reported directly to the head football
coach. Mr. Court and Mr. Anderson were the two signatories; neither knows who
put the clause into his contract establishing that Mr. Court reported to Mr. Durkin,
or why that clause was inserted.46
Both Mr. Evans and the Deputy AD are emphatic that Mr. Court reported to
Mr. Durkin, just as Mr. Courtas contract says. Dr. Klossner originally thought that
he was to supervise Mr. Court as he did the prior head strength coach, but stated in
an email in June 2016 that he understood he did not have such a responsibility.47
The football program organization chart displays Mr. Court reporting to Mr.
Durkin, although we were told that the chart represented lines of communication,
not supervision.

45

Mr. Durkin also claims that his contract states that he does not supervise strength and
conditioning coaches; we disagree with that interpretation.
46
Mr. Evans and Mr. Durkin state that they were not familiar with Mr. Courtas contract
clause stating that he reported to Mr. Durkin.
47
In June 2016 Dr. Klossner submitted his annual performance reviews for the football staff
he supervised. In his transmittal note to the human resources representative, he stated aI donat
think I have to do one for Rick Court.a

48

Mr. Court says it was never clear to him who his supervisor was, and that no
one gave him any performance reviews or assessments during his tenure. Thus,
there was no one in the Athletics Departmentaindeed, in the entire Universitya
who acknowledged it was their job to oversee Mr. Court and hold him accountable
to the Universityas standards. This was a departmental failure.
Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court proceeded to hire a football strength coach staff
without input from, or consultation with, Dr. Klossner. Mr. Durkin states that he
was granted authority from Mr. Anderson to do so, and Mr. Evans confirms that
Mr. Durkin was given a budget, but otherwise he had reasonable discretion to pick
these assistants.
1.

Warning signals about the football program

An Athletics Department administrator was approached by a football player
during the spring of 2016. The player stated that one of the S&C coaches used
language that made the player feel aless than human.a48 This administrator was
soon to leave Maryland. He/she told Mr. Evans about this incident. Mr. Evans
stated that he has no recollection of such a conversation.49
As Mr. Durkinas first season as head football coach was drawing to a close,
an anonymous email was delivered to Mr. Anderson, the UMD Presidentas public
48

We spoke to this former player. He confirmed that he had been subjected to abusive
language by one of the strength and conditioning coaches and that he had reported this to staff.
49
We did not advise Mr. Evans which athletics official brought this to Mr. Evansas attention,
given the staff memberas request to keep his/her name confidential.

49

email address, and others. It has been reported that this document was also
delivered as a letter to the Presidentas Office. That office has no record of such
receipt.
This December 9, 2016, email raised disturbing allegations about the
football program. It read in part:
One of Kevin Andersonas primary jobs is to look out for the physical
and mental welfare of his athletes. He is not doing his job and the fact
that he allows his coaches to psychologically, physically, and
emotionally abuse the athletes is paving the way for a multi-million
dollar civil lawsuit against the school and the coaches, alleging assault
and intentional infliction of emotional distress.50
The email made claims of mistreatment of athletes by Mr. Durkin and his
staff, and also alleged that the program was violating NCAA regulations by
exceeding practice time limits and requiring the players to sign false
documentation. It closed: aDURKIN SHOULD BE PUT ON NOTICE!
Immediately.a
The Presidentas public email is monitored by two staff employees. One
forwarded the anonymous email to Dr. Loh the following Monday afternoon with a
cover note: aPlease see the message below, which is unsigned, regarding alleged
abuse of student athletes. Would you like to send to Kevin Anderson directly to
discuss?a

50

December 9, 2016 email from fortheabused@gmail.com to president@umd.edu. This
email is included in Appendix 8.

50

That same evening, Dr. Loh directed that the anonymous email to Mr.
Anderson: aforward to KA on an FYI basis. He does no [sic] need to respond to
this anonymous email. Tx.a An email was sent by one of Dr. Lohas staff to Mr.
Anderson with a note: aSharing this message with you as an FYI. As the message
is anonymous, not [sic] response is needed. President Loh and Michele [Eastman,
Dr. Lohas Chief of Staff] also reviewed the message.a
The anonymous email was featured in a Washington Post article on
September 30, 2018.51 Prior to that time, we had interviewed Dr. Loh and his
Chief of Staff. Both stated that the Presidentas Office had not received any
football-related complaints during Mr. Durkinas tenure. The Chief of Staff advised
that the office had only received two athletics-related complaints during this time
period, and neither related to football.
We re-interviewed both Dr. Loh and his Chief of Staff. Both insist that they
had no memory whatsoever of the email, although they were certain that they
received it and commented upon it, given the paper trail. Even after reading the
email during his re-interview, Dr. Loh cannot remember the email, or if he had

aMotivation or abuse? Maryland confronts footballas fine line as new allegations emerge,a
Washington Post, September 30, 2018, available at
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/motivation-or-abuse-maryland-confrontsfootballs-fine-line-as-new-allegations-emerge/2018/09/30/e7ab028e-c3dd-11e8-b338a3289f6cb742_story.html?utm_term=.043c5f6b2975.
51

51

even read it in 2016 (as opposed to just reading his assistantas covering note and
directing that the email be sent to Mr. Anderson).
The Chief of Staff described how the roughly 200 emails to Dr. Lohas public
inbox each day are typically handled. Two staffers review these emails and
forward emails that warrant responses to a cabinet member, the Dean, Dr. Loh, or
his staff. Anonymous emails typically do not receive responses. Emails that are
found to warrant a response or greater attention are separated out into electronic
folders, but there is no uniform follow-up mechanism. The December 9, 2016
email was placed in this electronic folder.52
Dr. Loh advises us that his typical protocol regarding complaints is to
forward the email to the appropriate Cabinet member (in this case, Mr. Anderson).
He does not recall any response from Mr. Anderson, which did not strike him as
unusual. Dr. Loh explains his ano need to responda instruction as relating solely to
fact that the University did not, as a matter of course, respond to anonymous
emails. Dr. Loh insists that ano need to responda did not equate to ano need to
investigate.a Rather, he expected Mr. Anderson to review and take whatever
action he felt was appropriate.

52

We reviewed the emails in this folder and did not see any other emails that raised
football-related concerns, except for an alleged student-athlete misconduct issue that was
publicly addressed.

52

Mr. Anderson recalls that he received the anonymous email. On December
9, 2016, Mr. Anderson forwarded the email to Damon Evans, Marcus Wilson, and
Zack Bolno, all Athletics Department staff, with the message, aWe need to talk
about this email.a
Mr. Anderson says that he asked whether these staff members had seen or
heard anything inappropriate. They all answered in the negative. He asked the
three members to be observant for any signs of inappropriate behavior, and they
uniformly responded that they would do so. Mr. Anderson recalls no one
subsequently advising him of any troubling observations. He is not aware of any
other Athletics Department actions in response to the anonymous allegations.
Mr. Evans does not recall any conversation with Mr. Anderson about the
email, and another staff member asserts that no such conversation occurred. Mr.
Wilson, who is no longer employed by UMD, declined to speak with us.
Mr. Anderson did not respond to Dr. Loh or the anonymous emailer, in
accordance with Dr. Lohas directive.53 Neither of them recall any conversations
about the email.
The anonymous email was also routed to the Athletics Department and
directed to an employee on the NCAA Compliance Staff. The employee
Mr. Andersonas and Dr. Lohas calendars do not reflect any meetings discussing this email;
there was a regular executive meeting when this email was not discussed, and there was a call
with Dr. Loh on Mr. Andersonas calendar, but Dr. Lohas calendar reveals a different meeting at
that time.
53

53

forwarded it to three other Athletics compliance officials, all on December 9.
Early in the investigation, we had asked the Athletics Department for all footballrelated complaints during Mr. Durkinas tenure. We also interviewed the two
Athletics compliance officials responsible for overseeing football and asked them
to identify all football-related complaints. We did not obtain the anonymous email
or any information about this complaint through any of these queries. Instead, we
learned of and received the email (including all threads in which the email had
been forwarded), the weekend before the Washington Post article was published.
In separate interviews conducted before September 30, Mr. Evans and the
two compliance officials all denied being aware of any football-related complaints
arising during Mr. Durkinas tenure, apart from complaints discussed elsewhere in
this report. As of his re-interview, Mr. Evans still has no recollection of the
anonymous email, but acknowledges he must have received it, given the document
trail.
We spoke to three individuals in the compliance department about the
December 9, 2016 complaint email. The staffer who received the email forwarded
it to his then-supervisor and the other members of the NCAA compliance staff.
All three compliance personnel tell us that they believe the email dealt
primarily with issues that were outside the purview of the compliance staff, and for
that reason it would be more appropriately addressed by the sport supervisor of

54

football (at that point, Mr. Evans). One of the few compliance-related allegations
was that Coach Durkin athwarts NCAA time limitsa and amakes the players sign
off on the required forms that would be audited by the NCAA.a54 The three
compliance personnel all say that, once they learned that Mr. Evans and other
senior staff were aware of the allegations in the email, they felt that they had no
additional responsibilities to act.
According to one individual from the NCAA compliance staff, there is no
standard process for addressing compliance complaints; it depends on the nature of
the complaint and the surrounding circumstances. There is no standard process for
documenting compliance complaints, either, and whether a complaint gets
documented is based on a ajudgment call.a The staffer states that generally, the
football program does not have a track record of compliance violations.
Furthermore, according to the staffer, it was unlikely that the football program ran
afoul of NCAA-imposed time limitations because of the way that time is counted.55
Another member of the compliance staff believes it to be unlikely that there
was a compliance violation given that both players and coaches signed off on time
sheets. The staffer had also attended several football practices and had not seen
anything that was of concern. As their supervisor was aware of the email, the
54

December 9, 2016 email (emphasis in original).
For example, a full day of competition only counts as three hours toward the
NCAA-imposed limit of 20 hours, even though student-athletes may spend several hours of the
day preparing for the game and participating in post-game team activities.
55

55

email appeared to complain more of culture-related issues than compliance-related
issues, and the compliance-related issue was believed unlikely to be an NCAA
violation, none of the compliance staff took any independent action to investigate
the allegations.
When the members of the compliance staff were asked about why they had
not shared the December 9, 2016, email with the Commission, each employee
stated (in effect) that the email had slipped their minds. None of them had taken
any action in response to the email (aside from verifying that their supervisor was
aware of it), and it was brought to their attention nearly two years ago.
In sum, it does not appear that the Athletics Department took any action of
consequence to investigate this email. This is problematic at many levels. The
email alleged violations of NCAA rules and serious misconduct that violated the
Universityas core principles. Mr. Durkin was never questioned or even made
aware of this email, a serious omission.
From all appearances, this anonymous memorandum simply aslipped
between the cracks.a This episode demonstrates an abject failure by the Athletics
Department, from the compliance staff to the AD, to perform its fundamental duty
of investigating complaints and ensuring the well-being of the student-athletes it
serves.

56

2.

A team survey lauds the football program and the strength and
conditioning program

In March 2017, the Athletics Department conducted an anonymous survey
of the football team.56 Forty-eight players took the survey.57 The survey data
identifies these players, but does not permit identification of an individual playeras
responses. Some of the players who spoke to ESPN in connection with its August
10, 2018, article took the survey.
The survey showed strong approval figures for the quality of coaching at the
head coach and assistant levels, as well as the quality of medical care provided.
Players responded on a 1 to 5 scale, with a1a signifying astrongly disagree,a and
a5a denoting astrongly agree.a The average scores for selected questions are:
i* The overall quality of the head coaching I received was
adequate and appropriate: 4.46
i* The overall quality of the assistant coaching I received was
adequate and appropriate: 4.46

NCAA Manual Article 6 Institutional Control states in part: aRule 6.3 Exit Interviews.
The institutionas director of athletics, senior woman administrator or designated representatives
(excluding coaching staff members) shall conduct exit interviews in each sport with a sample of
student-athletes (as determined by the institution) whose eligibility has expired. Interviews shall
include questions regarding the value of the studentsa athletics experiences, the extent of the
athletics time demands encountered by the student-athletes, proposed changes in intercollegiate
athletics and concerns related to the administration of the student-athletesa specific sports.
(Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91, Revised: 8/7/14)a According to UMD NCAA compliance
staff, the NCAA permitted Maryland to satisfy this requirement through online surveys.
57
2016 survey data, attached as Appendix 9. The respondentsa names are redacted.
56

57

i* I was not subject to inappropriate physical contact, verbal
communication, or mental/emotional stress: 4.3758
i* My experience with the medical/training staff was positive and
met my needs: 4.1759
The playersa assessment of the strength coaches is of particular interest
given the current accusations. The players rated the strength coaches higher than
the head coach or the assistant coaches. Indeed, the strength coachesa score was
the highest score of any question posed in the survey:
i* My experience with the strength and coaching staff was a
positive and the staff met my teamas needs: 4.5960
The only comment regarding the S&C staff, apart from the rankings, was:
aFootball strength staff was the best hire ever!a
Mr. Evans stated that he reviewed these scores, and that it confirmed his
impression that Mr. Court was doing a good job. Mr. Evans said he observed the
players getting bigger, stronger, and fitter. These survey results seemed to match
Mr. Evansas impressions and observations.
The high scores for S&C coaching are also curious in that many players told
the Commission that Mr. Court was much tougher during the 2016 season, which

One player provided a astrongly disagreea answer, but his identity could not be ascertained
because of the anonymity of the survey. Four others provided a a3a or aneutrala response. The
other 41 players aAgreeda or aStrongly Agreeda with this question.
59
Two players aStrongly Disagreed,a and one player aDisagreeda with this question.
60
This average included one aStrongly Disagreeda response, 15 aAgreed,a and thirty
aStrongly Agreed.a
58

58

some viewed as a process of aweeding outa the players that Mr. Edsall recruited
who did not fit with Mr. Durkinas training methods. By 2017, some players
advised that they had adjusted to the new routine, and that Mr. Court was not as
consistently demeaning. Others said that over time they had learned to tune out
Mr. Courtas abusive language: a[h]eas called people names, you know. Itas a way
to motivate somebody. I donat think I saw a lot of personal attacks in front of the
team. Most of the team comments were positive.a
Athletics conducted another survey of the football team following the 2017
season.61 The number of players who participated in this anonymous, voluntary
online survey was less than half (20 vs. 48) than participated in the prior yearas
survey. Still, the playersa responses suggested a healthy program. As described in
Section VI, 89% of the players agreed or strongly agreed that the coaching was
adequate and appropriate.62
3.

Other warning signs prior to May 29, 2018

One assistant coach tells the Commission that he expressed concerns to Mr.
Durkin about Mr. Courtas behavior on one occasion. Mr. Durkin denies this.
Another assistant coach reportedly mentioned in a coaching staff meeting that
practices were too intense. Other coaches have stated that they did not think Mr.

61
62

2017 survey data, attached as Appendix 10. The respondentsa names are redacted.
See Appendix 10.

59

Durkin knew of Mr. Courtas alleged excesses. We were told by several assistants
that Mr. Courtas conduct was never raised in coachesa meetings, which Mr. Court
attended. One former assistant who was quite critical of Mr. Court says: aI donat
think he [Mr. Durkin] knew. No one would have brought complaints to DJ
because most considered them [Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court] the same person.a This
led staff to avoid discussing Mr. Court with Mr. Durkin.
There were also mixed reviews as to how receptive Mr. Durkin was to
feedback and suggestions to change generally. Mr. Durkin denies that he was ever
approached by a member of the football staff about Mr. Courtas behavior prior to
May 29, 2018, and he notes that he always maintained an aopen door policy.a
Despite Mr. Durkinas contentions, some players feared that complaining to him
could lead to his thinking less of the player, which could affect their standing on
the team or playing time.
Mr. Durkin and Mr. Evans both recount one instance in which parents
complained about Mr. Courtas conduct prior to Jordan McNairas tragedy. On April
9, 2018, the parents of a player met with Mr. Evans. The parents contended that
their son deserved a scholarship (he was a walk-on) and that he should be given aa
legitimate opportunity to compete for playing time.a They said that Mr. Court (and
two other coaches, including Mr. Durkin) had subjected their son to physical and
verbal abuse. In particular, Mr. Court had refused to allow the player to sit on a

60

heated bench during a home game in November, as that space was reserved for the
starters.63 Mr. Court began berating their son in the fall of 2017, and Mr. Court
and several other coaches atargeteda him for abuse. On one occasion, Mr. Court
told the player that he acouldnat playa (i.e., was not good enough to play) during a
workout.
Mr. Evans then arranged a meeting a week later between the parents, the
player, Mr. Durkin, and the Assistant AD for Football and Equipment Operations.
Mr. Durkin insisted that the player be present during the meeting. The player was
largely silent during the meeting, but he confirmed his parentsa accusations.
All parties agree that this meeting lasted over two hours and was contentious
at times.64 The parents state that Mr. Durkin completely supported Mr. Court,
saying that, ano non-starter should sit on the [heated] bench.a Mr. Durkin says that
he was getting different information from the player than he was from the parents.
For example, the player had told his parents that he was choked by an assistant
coach, but in front of Mr. Durkin, the player stated that the coach was
demonstrating a defensive hand placement technique that caused the playeras
shoulder pads to tighten. Mr. Durkin acknowledged that Mr. Court should not

63

The temperature was 37 degrees at kickoff. See
https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/KCGS/date/2017-1111?req_city=College%20Park&req_state=MD&req_statename=Maryland&reqdb.zip=20742&re
qdb.magic=1&reqdb.wmo=99999.
64
We interviewed all five participants in the meeting.

61

have said the player acouldnat play,a but noted that Mr. Court said this on an
occasion when the player was late to a workout. The parents and player admit that
both Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court were aoverly politea to the player in their
subsequent coaching of him.
From the Commissionas interviews with 165 players, parents, coaches, staff,
and others familiar with the UMD football program, as well as email searches of
18 members of the Athletics Department, this is the totality of evidence that either
Mr. Durkin or Athletics Department leaders were warned about misconduct in the
football program (apart from one incident discussed in Section V.K). Mr. Durkin
does admit that he heard Mr. Court using the ap**** b****a and ap**** f*****a
epithets, but did not hear that language directed at specific individuals.65 Mr.
Durkin further acknowledges that he heard about the incident where Mr. Court
took a box of food out of a playeras hands and threw it against the wall. See
Section V. But Mr. Durkin still does not believe that Mr. Court acrossed any
lines.a
D.

The Athletics Department Retains Counsel to Defend Football
Players Accused of Sexual Misconduct

On or about June 20, 2017, the head of the Universityas Office of Civil
Rights & Sexual Misconduct (commonly known as the aTitle IX Officea) met with

The specific language referenced is apussy bitcha and apussy faggot,a which we refer to as
ap**** b****a and ap**** f*****a respectively throughout this report.
65

62

Mr. Durkin and another member of the Athletics Department regarding a potential
investigation of sexual misconduct alleged by a student affiliated with athletics
against two football players. Following that initial meeting, the Title IX Office
decided to move forward with a formal investigation of the complaint.
Once the decision was made to proceed with the investigation, members of
the Executive Staff of the Athletics Department met to discuss the pending
investigation. Mr. Durkin was not at this meeting. At that meeting, several of
those present recall that Deputy AD Evans advised Mr. Anderson not to engage or
participate in the investigation and to let it run its course. Mr. Anderson
vigorously denies this account, however.
According to information gathered during a University internal investigation
conducted in September 2017, either Mr. Anderson or Mr. Durkin, or both,
asolicited and facilitated payment to a law firm to represent the accused players.a
With regards to the solicitation, Mr. Durkin states that he was approached by the
two football players under investigation, and they recommended Donald Jackson,
founder and lead attorney of The Sports Group. The two student-athletes made
this recommendation after having spoken with another football player previously
represented by Mr. Jackson in connection with an eligibility issue.
Mr. Jackson did not receive an engagement letter from the University for his
representation of the two football players who were the subjects of the Title IX

63

investigation. When Mr. Jackson represented another football player and a
basketball player in earlier matters relating to their eligibility, he received
engagement letters for his services. The normal course of business to retain
outside counsel for student-athletes at Maryland involved coordination between
Deputy AD Evans, a Senior Associate AD, and the Universityas General Counselas
office. The General Counsel is required to authorize the retention of outside
counsel. Once that authorization is given, then a fee engagement agreement is
entered into between the University and outside counsel. After obtaining that fee
engagement letter, only then can the University of Maryland College Park
Foundation, Inc. (the aFoundationa) be approached for monies to pay for that
attorneyas services.
By all accounts, that protocol was not followed for Mr. Jacksonas
representation of the two football players. Rather, in late August 2018, the law
firm submitted a request for payment for $15,000 for aupcoming speakinga fees
after having received an email from an Assistant AD (from his spouseas personal
email account) asking for an invoice for ayour fee for speaking at Maryland.a Mr.
Jackson had previously agreed to charge a flat fee of $15,000 for his representation
of the two players.
According to the Universityas internal investigation findings, aupon receipt
of the request [to pay $15,000 for a aspeakeras feea], an employee . . . brought it to

64

the attention of . . . Damon Evans, who in turn brought it to the attention of the
President. . . . Upon receiving this information, the President instructed the former
AD to end the relationship with the attorney, which the former AD attempted to do
in an email to [Mr. Jackson].a Mr. Jackson, however, continued to represent the
players.
Before Dr. Lohas instructions were put into effect, the Assistant AD advised
Mr. Jackson that the invoice he drafted awould not work.a Instead, he sent Mr.
Jackson a revised invoice dated August 29, 2017, which described Mr. Jacksonas
services as an aEligibility Consultation.a66 NCAA rules permit schools to hire
counsel for players to address eligibility issues. As school sanctions (such as
suspension or expulsion) can affect eligibility, the NCAA typically permits schools
to pay for counsel when a player faces disciplinary proceedings.
In order to process payment of the revised invoice, Mr. Evans says he was
directed by Mr. Anderson to facilitate payment as quickly as possible through the
Foundation. On September 7, 2017, Mr. Anderson, the Senior Associate AD for
Finance and Operations, and the Associate AD for Compliance, each
countersigned a Disbursement Request Form to the Foundation for $15,000 to be

The Compliance Office approved the payment of Mr. Jacksonas fee as characterized in the
revised invoice. Mr. Jackson states that he neither created, nor participated in the creation of, the
revised invoice, which describes his services as an aEligibility Consultation.a It appears that the
revised invoice was generated by someone in the Athletics Department.
66

65

paid to Mr. Jackson for an aEligibility Consultation,a and payment was wired to
Mr. Jacksonas account.
Mr. Anderson denies any involvement in creating the aspeakeras feea
payment plan and claims that the first time he was made aware of the arrangement
was when Mr. Evans presented him with an invoice for Mr. Jacksonas services
described as a aspeakeras feea and asked for his approval of the payment. Mr.
Anderson says that he advised Mr. Evans he would not approve of any payment to
Mr. Jackson for a aspeakeras fee.a
Although Mr. Jackson was eventually paid through the Foundation funds for
an aEligibility Consultation,a the manner by which his services were retained, and
then paid for, suggests a departmental failure to obtain University approval to
retain an attorney, and subterfuge as to the true purpose of the funds. The Athletics
Department had previously obtained the approval of the General Counselas Office
when it retained Mr. Jackson to represent other student-athletes in other matters, as
well as obtained an engagement letter documenting the terms of engagement. It
failed to do so here.
The use of Foundation monies was also questionable at best. The
Foundationas expressly stated purpose is:
to receive, hold, invest, manage, use, dispose of and administer
property of all kinds, whether given absolutely or in trust, or by way
of agency or otherwise, and to make expenditures, to or for the benefit
of the University of Maryland College Park, its mission, goals, and
66

programs, or for any or all of the educational and support activities
that may be conducted by the University of Maryland College Park
. . . to endow scholarships and other forms of student aid, and to
support any of the programs, activities or services of the
University of Maryland College Park.67
(emphasis added). Here, supporter gifts were used to pay for the representation of
two football players facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct. The
Foundationas bylaws permit a broad range of uses of funds, but it is questionable as
to whether it extends to legal fees. Perhaps most problematic, the Athletics
Department funded the legal defense of the student-athletes accused of misconduct,
but it did not provide legal support to the complainant, who was also affiliated with
the Athletics Department.
Ultimately, the Office of Student Conduct and the Standing Review
Committee held a hearing for the two football players on September 29, 2017, and
found that one of the football players was responsible for the alleged violations,
but that the other was not responsible. The student found responsible was
expelled.
Several members of the Athletics Department staff tell us that one of the
functions of an effective Athletics Department is to protect coaches from becoming
embroiled in difficult student disciplinary situations such as this. Mr. Durkin, a

67

Foundation Bylaws;
http://umcpf.org/userfiles/file/Foundation%20Public%20Content/policies/UMCPF_By_Laws.pdf
; http://umcpf.org/board/showPage.php?name=purposes.

67

relatively new coach, was described by Dr. Loh as a ababe in the woodsa regarding
the complexities of a Title IX investigation of this nature. Still, Mr. Durkinas
failure to question a plan that characterized Mr. Jacksonas services as aspeakeras
fees,a which was plainly pretextual, is troubling.68
E.

aThe Last Strawa: Kevin Anderson Agrees to Go on Sabbatical

For Dr. Loh, Mr. Andersonas failure to follow protocols in retaining an
attorney to represent the football players accused of sexual misconduct was athe
last straw.a In particular, Dr. Loh found it disturbing that Mr. Anderson provided
financial resources to the accused, while the complainant, who was also a student
affiliated with the Athletics Department, was not provided with any assistance. On
September 27, 2017, Dr. Loh ordered his General Counselas office to investigate
the matter. Dr. Loh suspended Mr. Anderson with pay while that investigation was
pending.
Dr. Loh viewed the situation as irreparable. The University and Mr.
Anderson reached an agreement on October 16, 2017, whereby Mr. Anderson
agreed to resign six months later, in April 2018. The intervening period was
labeled a asabbatical,a with Mr. Evans taking over the day-to-day administration of

68

We understand that allegations of undue influence and/or pressure exerted by members of
the Athletics Department over the course of this Title IX investigation are the subject of an
ongoing investigation by an outside law firm retained by the University through the Attorney
Generalas Office. Accordingly, we have refrained from addressing that issue in this report.

68

Athletics.69 But as the Washington Post reported at the time, ait remains unclear if
Anderson will be back in six months.a70
Both Mr. Anderson and Dr. Loh knew that Mr. Anderson would not return.
Dr. Loh provided Mr. Anderson with this six-month grace period for two reasons.
First, the college sports world was then ensnared in a nationwide college basketball
bribery scandal.71 Several prominent people in the University feared that the
media would incorrectly interpret a resignation by Mr. Anderson as an admission
that Maryland was involved in this scandal. Second, the grace period allowed Mr.
Anderson to continue to hold the title while he searched for another athletics
director position. Mr. Anderson advised Dr. Loh that he was likely to find a new
position within sixty days.
Mr. Anderson did not find a new AD post within sixty days. He resigned on
April 13, 2018, after which the University commissioned a search firm to find his
replacement. Then-interim AD Damon Evans was among the applicants.
Although the sabbatical arrangement may have avoided false speculation
and benefited Mr. Anderson, it created a lack of leadership and an atmosphere of
uncertainty in the Athletics Department for another six months. The 2017 Thriving

69

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/terrapins-insider/wp/2017/10/16/marylandathletic-director-kevin-anderson-to-go-on-six-month-sabbatical/?utm_term=.c6b3dba6aa2f.
70
See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/terrapins-insider/wp/2017/10/16/marylandathletic-director-kevin-anderson-to-go-on-six-month-sabbatical/?utm_term=.c6b3dba6aa2f.
71
See https://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2017/9/27/16367814/ncaa-basketballfbi-investigation-coaches-agents-adidas.

69

Workplace Initiative survey, which was conducted in October 2017, just as these
changes were occurring, reflects the decrease in staff confidence (and employee
engagement) occasioned by this decision. While Mr. Evans was aware that Mr.
Anderson would not be returning, he did not know if he would succeed Mr.
Anderson.
As a result, from October 2017 through July 2018, many people in the
Athletics Department were uncertain as to whether Mr. Anderson would return.
The department has been characterized as being in alimboa during this period.
Nevertheless, Mr. Evans reports that during this time, he attempted to strengthen
relationships and initiate reforms within the department.
Ultimately, the national search, announced in April 2018, concluded on July
2, 2018, when Dr. Loh named Mr. Evans as Marylandas AD.
Looking back on the period in which Mr. Anderson supervised Mr. Durkin,
Mr. Anderson recalls Mr. Durkin as ademanding but fair.a Mr. Anderson believes
that Mr. Durkin shared Mr. Edsallas philosophy: he wanted his team to win games,
but his most important job was to develop men who would be productive members
of society. Mr. Anderson claims he never saw any instances of abuse, and is
adamant that he would not tolerate such conduct. He points to an instance at
another school where he had earlier served as AD. About six months after the fact,
Mr. Anderson learned that a coach had grabbed a player by the jersey and slammed

70

him against the wall. Mr. Anderson terminated the employment of the coach. He
believes that if a staff member had seen abusive behavior, he would have learned
about it and acted just as he did at his prior school.
F.

Jordan McNair Suffers Heat Stroke on May 29, 2018, and Passes
Away on June 13

The tragic events surrounding the death of Jordan McNair are recounted in
the independent evaluation of Walters, Inc., submitted to the University on
September 21, 2018. We defer to Mr. Waltersa findings, and we have not sought to
re-investigate those events.
After initially being taken to Washington Adventist Hospital, Mr. McNair
was transported to the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland
Hospital in Baltimore.72 He was surrounded by family, and was frequently visited
by players and staff. Mr. Durkin, frequently accompanied by his wife, visited
every day until June 4, when the family asked for privacy. Mr. Durkin spoke at the
memorial service after Jordanas death. Dr. Loh visited with the family in the
hospital, and also attended the service.
Mr. Durkin states that after the McNair tragedy, he called Mr. Evans to
request an external review of how player safety was handled on that occasion.

72

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/terrapins-insider/wp/2018/06/13/jordanmcnair-maryland-offensive-lineman-dies/?utm_term=.a3b11e54905c;
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/terrapins-insider/wp/2018/06/13/jordan-mcnairmaryland-offensive-lineman-dies/?utm_term=.a3b11e54905c.

71

After Dr. Walters provided his preliminary report in late July, suggesting that the
training staff bore some responsibility for the tragedy, Mr. Durkin urged Mr. Evans
to retain a new training staff before August practices began, to ensure the safety of
the players.
On August 10, 2018, ESPN published an article about the Maryland football
program.73 This article is included in Appendix 11. The story alleged a atoxic
coaching culture under head coach DJ Durkin,a and described a series of incidents,
which we address in Section V.
That same day, UMD announced that it had placed members of its athletics
staff on administrative leave, but did not specify the personnel.74 Those
individuals were head football trainer Wes Robinson, director of athletic training
Steve Nordwall, and Mr. Court.75 Mr. Court announced his resignation on
August 14.
Mr. Evans spoke to Mr. Durkin around the time of the release of the ESPN
articles. Mr. Durkin stated that the allegations made by Malik Jones in the article
did not accurately portray what had transpired. See Section V. Mr. Evans also

73

See http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/24342005/maryland-terrapinsfootball-culture-toxic-coach-dj-durkin.
74
See https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/maryland-places-athletic-staffers-onleave-in-wake-of-football-players-death/2018/08/10/26012958-9ce9-11e8-843b36e177f3081c_story.html?utm_term=.6f382e0467b9.
75
See http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/24348378/maryland-terrapins-placetrainers-leave-amid-investigation-jordan-mcnair-death.

72

spoke to Mr. Court. Mr. Court denied some of the allegations, admitted that some
incidents occurred (but with incorrect details), and supplied differing details and
context to show why he felt his actions were appropriate. Even with the context,
Mr. Evans concluded that Mr. Courtas acts of requiring a player to eat candy bars
in the weight room at Halloween or grabbing a food box out of a playeras hands
were not appropriate. See Section V.
On August 11, 2018, UMD placed Mr. Durkin on paid administrative
leave.76 Mr. Evans advised that, unlike Mr. Court, the University did not conclude
that Mr. Durkin had done anything inappropriate. Still, the University decided that
a paid leave during the investigation was prudent given the seriousness of the
allegations. Mr. Durkin states that he received a letter from Mr. Evans which read:
aYou have been provided an opportunity to discuss this pending action with me at
a meeting today prior to this action.a Mr. Durkin claims that he was never, in fact,
provided such an opportunity. The Commission has seen no evidence that the
University conducted any fact-finding prior to placing Mr. Durkin on leave, or that
Mr. Durkin had an opportunity to tell his side of the story before being placed on
paid leave.

76

See https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2018/08/11/marylands-dj-durkin-leaveamid-investigation-into-player-treatment/968590002/.

73

Mr. Evansas view is that Mr. Durkin aoperates within the norm of big
programs in big schools,a particularly given what Mr. Evans has seen at other
institutions. Mr. Evans does not believe that Maryland has a toxic culture, and
does not feel that the portrait of Mr. Durkin drawn in media reports is a fair one.
He acknowledges that Mr. Durkin must be assessed responsibility for the failure of
supervision over Mr. Court. But Mr. Evans acknowledges that the entire Athletics
Department leadership, including himself, bears responsibility for Mr. Courtas
excesses.
On August 14, 2018, Dr. Loh announced:
[The] University will retain an external expert to undertake a
comprehensive examination of our coaching practices in the football
program, with the goal that these practices reflect a not subvert a the
core values of our University.77
Ours is the investigation that followed. The eight members of this
commission were announced on August 24, 2018.78
V.

Specific Allegations of Coaching and Other Staff Misconduct
Players, parents, and coaches provided specific allegations of when UMD

coaches and staff acrossed a linea from intense but appropriate motivational tactics
to improper and abusive misconduct. Some of these examples have already been

77

See http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/24351245/maryland-football-coachdj-durkin-put-leave-amid-reports-toxic-culture;
https://president.umd.edu/communications/statements/updates-umd-football-program.
78
See https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2018/08/24/mcmillen-added-tocommission-investigating-maryland-football/37595343/.

74

publicly reported; others have not. Some of them have been emphatically
disputed; others have not. Descriptions of what took place are the product of
interviews with multiple sources. These incidents comprise the most serious
allegations that we heard during our interviews with players, parents, and coaches.
They are recounted in roughly chronological order. We say aroughlya because we
could not pinpoint time periods for every allegation, and some allegations were of
an ongoing nature.
The absence of certain evidence is also notable. We were not told of any
allegations of misconduct or mistreatment directed at Jordan McNair prior to the
alleged events of May 29, 2018. But we were told that some players, who were not
themselves the targets of abuse, still felt adverse effects from these events.
A.

Rick Court Alleged to Choke Injured Player with Lat Pulldown
Bar in Weight Room

During an off-season training session in January 2016, Mr. Court allegedly
approached a player who was working out on a lateral muscle (alata) pulldown
machine.79 This account was provided by two players who were eyewitnesses to
the events, as well as the allegedly-affected playeras mother. In our September 9,
2018 survey of the current football players, we did not receive any comments
discussing this incident.
79

Exercising on a lat pulldown machine involves the individual in a seated position pulling
down on an overhead bar, similar to the exercise shown in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lueEJGjTuPQ.

75

The player had undergone surgery in December 2015 and was struggling to
complete an additional pulldown rep of the lat bar. Mr. Court allegedly came up
behind the player and said acome on motherf***era and pressed the lat bar into his
neck, choking him. The playeras parent, who first learned of the alleged incident
from her son in the spring of 2018, reported that the incident had a long-term
impact on the player. Another player observed that Mr. Court and the player in
question had a poor relationship partly because Mr. Court sent staff to monitor
whether that player was attending his classesathe player had a spotty attendance
record. The playeras parents reported that their son told his mother that Mr. Durkin
acknowledged the incident, believed it was wrong, but indicated ano charges
would be pressed.a
There is disagreement about when Mr. Durkin was advised of this alleged
incident, or whether he was present at all; Mr. Durkin denies he was there. One
player stated that Mr. Durkin was in the weight room at the time; the other player
was not sure. Mr. Durkin maintains he only learned of the allegations after the
death of Jordan McNair, when the parentas mother brought this complaint to him.
Mr. Durkin says that he then went to the player, who denied that the incident
occurred.
Mr. Court vigorously denies this incident ever happened. Each member of
the strength and training staff was specifically asked if he was aware of a choking

76

incident; none reported knowing about this, and some seemed genuinely surprised
about the nature of the question.
B.

Weights and Other Items Thrown Across Training Room

Several players also report demeaning, and potentially dangerous, acts of
aggression by Mr. Court in the weight room. There are reports of instances where
Mr. Court hurled weights across the room, in apparent frustration with players
failing to push themselves as hard as he would like. Witnesses agree, both in
individual interviews and in the anonymous team survey, that Mr. Court never
threw anything at anyone, nor did any of the thrown weights or items strike
anyone. In our September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we
received 28 comments mentioning Mr. Court throwing objects in the weight room.
One player also advises that Mr. Court, in anger, smashed a PVC pipe over a
cooler (PVC pipes are used as an exercise tool). No one was hurt or meant to be
injured, but these illustrations were presented as part of a pattern of aggressiveness
that was part of Mr. Courtas approach to motivation.
Another incident that was repeatedly discussed, with variations as to the
details, was an instance where Mr. Court flung a trash can that contained a playeras
vomit across the weight room. During the workout session, the player in question
had gotten sick and vomited into the trash can. Some sources, including former
players Michal (aGusa) Little and E.J. Donahue, alleged that Mr. Court then

77

shoved the player against a refrigerator in the gym and forced him to clean up his
own vomit from the trash can, which Mr. Court had thrown across the weight
room.80 Others state that Mr. Court just threw the can against the wall, without
touching the player, and the spilled vomit was then cleaned by a staff member. In
either event, Mr. Courtas behavior was unacceptable. However, the player in
question and his immediate family were not as offended as other teammates, and
they remain supportive of Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court.
Mr. Court denies the trash can vomit incident ever took place. He
acknowledged that he threw small items, potentially including weights, but never
at anyone. Mr. Durkin denies knowledge of these incidents before the publication
of the ESPN article.
C.

Morning Tugs-of-War

The ESPN article described tug-of-war contests where one player was pitted
against an entire unit or squad. The article, citing an anonymous source who
characterized the incident as abarbaric,a explained that a player struggled and
collapsed, and was called a ap****a by Mr. Court.
None of the players or coaches we interviewed advised of this particular
incident or practiceathat is, one player against an entire squad. Similarly, none of

80

We had conversations with Gus Little and E.J. Donahue that were coordinated by the law
firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy. Mr. Littleas and Mr. Donahueas names are used with their
consent.

78

the 94 players who took the survey mentioned this one-versus-many scenario,
notwithstanding a specific question designed to elicit events like this. See 2018
Survey Questions, attached as Appendix 12, at Part 3, Question 1.
Gus Little provided us with highly critical comments about the program. As
to this allegation, however, he states that only players who participated were
players who did not travel to road games. Mr. Little is unclear as to whether the
tugs-of-war were voluntary or required, but he says that the non-travel players did
them aall the time.a Multiple players and coaches confirm that sometimes the
coaches encouraged one-on-one tugs-of-war before breakfast. One player stated
that he was aware of another player who had participated in a tug-of-war contest
and that the players were aware that the coaches wanted them to do it. Mr. Durkin
admits that one-on-one pre-breakfast tugs-of-war occurred from time to time, but
insisted that they were not coercive nor meant to be punitive. Mr. Court says that
he instituted this competition after learning that other schools were also employing
this technique. In our September 9, 2018 survey of current football players, we
received three comments discussing the general practice of tug-of-war
competitions.
D.

Food Knocked from Playeras Hands

There are reports of players being, as some characterized it, disrespected,
demeaned, or humiliated in incidents involving food. One example first supplied

79

in reporting by ESPN involved a player having his meal knocked out of his hands.
In our September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we received eight
comments discussing food being hit out of a playeras hands.
Players and coaches corroborate such an event, albeit with different details,
in interviews and the 2018 survey. But a staff member and Mr. Durkin state that
players found this incident amusing, not intimidating.
Mr. Court recalls that the incident took place just before the first road game
of the 2016 season. Players were directed to eat lunch during a two-hour window
and not to eat during the subsequent team meeting. A player arrived towards the
end of the two-hour window and brought a box lunch into the team meeting. Mr.
Court, whose S&C staff was taking attendance, told the player to finish eating
within five minutes, which was when the meeting was scheduled to begin. After
five minutes had passed, the player was still eating out of his box lunch. Mr. Court
subsequently snatched the box out of the playeras hand, tossed it against the wall,
and addressed the entire group on the importance of punctuality, saying aI was
trying to set the tone for what that day was going to be.a Others say Mr. Court
knocked the food out of the playeras hand onto the ground.
Mr. Durkin says that he did not observe this event and did not find out until
he heard players making jokes about it on the way back from the game. Mr.

80

Durkin further defends the action, as the player had been given ample time to eat,
and it was important that player not eat right before traveling to a game.
Several witnesses note that this incident did not carry the significance
ascribed to it by the ESPN article. First, Mr. Durkin states that players were
laughing about the incident on the team bus following the game that day. Several
witnesses also cite a pre-bowl game skit later that year. In the skit, a member of
the coaching staff playing the role of Mr. Court knocked food out of a playeras
hands. The skit was prepared by the position group of the player in question. The
parody was well received by the players and prompted laughter.
The player involved did not find the incident amusing. He says that he was
unfairly targeted for following the common practice of eating during meetings. He
feels that Mr. Court disrespected him in front of the entire team, and says that
awhere Iam from, you donat disrespect people like that.a
The player also reports that, later in the season, Mr. Court again called him
out in front of teammates. Mr. Court purportedly said to his teammates, referring
to the player, athis is an example of what not to be.a The player says this amessed
him up mentally.a We also spoke to the playeras father, who concurs that Mr.
Courtas behavior affected his son psychologically.

81

E.

Player Compelled to Eat Candy Bars

Multiple current and former players confirm news reports that a specific
player who was overweight was given candy bars and snacks by Mr. Court while
others worked out or looked on. This was seen by fellow players as an attempt to
ridicule the overweight player. The incident reportedly took place around
Halloween 2016, when there was candy available in the weight room. In our
September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we received 14
comments discussing this incident.
Several interviewees say that the player in question presented unique
challenges for the coaches in terms of managing his weight, and that a wide range
of motivational strategies had been tried unsuccessfully. Accounts vary as to
whether Mr. Court placed the candy bars on the playeras lap, dropped them at his
feet, hurled them at the player, or poured a bin of them on the player and then
forced the player to eat them while the rest of the team worked out. Mr. Court says
he threw a bag of the candy at the playeras feet. One player recalls that Mr. Court
called the player afat.a
While details vary, coaches and staff members recall the incident but shared
the conclusion that Mr. Court was seeking to motivate a challenging player and
address the health risks associated with the playeras weight. We also heard stories
of several situations in which Mr. Court went abeyond the calla to assist with this

82

young manas health, including arranging a long-needed medical procedure to
address a health issue that arose during the playeras childhood.
There is disagreement about whether Mr. Durkin knew of the incident before
the ESPN article, which was published in August 2018, or whether he was present
in the weight room when it took place. Mr. Durkin denies learning of the incident
until the release of the August 10, 2018 ESPN article. Mr. Court admits this
occurred, but denies calling the player a awaste of life,a as alleged by others.
Mr. Court further defends his actions as an appropriate motivational technique to
try to get the player to recognize his health problems related to weight, given the
prior failure of more conventional methods.
The relationship between this player and Mr. Court may have improved in
the following months. In the spring of 2017, about six months after the incident,
the player texted Mr. Court:
Just wanted to say Iam sorry about earlier. You know I love ya man,
[you] did a lot of s*** for me the past year.
F.

Player Compelled to Eat until Vomiting

The ESPN article published in August 2018 referenced a player being forced
to eat until he vomited, although neither the source nor the player in question is
identified. More than one player, and at least one coach, confirm that a player
vomited during a team meal, although there was disagreement regarding whether
the player was forced to eat, or if he was simply eating and vomited. A coach
83

explains that this playeras eating habits were closely monitored because the player
had off-field issues that might be affecting his appetite in an unhealthy way.
Coaches sat with the player in question to ensure that he was actually eating
instead of merely reporting that he ate. Although the coach did not observe the
incident, he heard that it did take place.
The coach emphasizes that this was not fairly characterized as force feeding.
Instead, coaches and staff were monitoring what they believed to be a particular
health issue that the player faced. Players confirm that the player in question was
struggling with a health issue that affected his appetite. In our September 9, 2018
survey of the current football players, we received six comments discussing this
incident.
We heard from one player and three parents about the coaching staff moving
this playeras locker into the bathroom. Nobody we spoke with identified a single
coach as responsible for the decision to move the playeras locker to the bathroom.
In our September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we received six
comments discussing this matter. Mr. Durkin states that he does not recall the
playeras locker being moved to the bathroom.
G.

Players Exposed to Graphic Videos While Eating

Multiple players anonymously complain that the coaching staff would
subject teams during meal time to disturbing videos. According to Gus Little, this

84

included videos of serial killers, drills entering eyeballs, and bloody scenes with
animals eating animals. Another player says that there were videos of rams and
bucks running at each other at full speed. Mr. Durkin maintains that horror movies
were sometimes shown at breakfast to motivate and entertain players.
Mr. Court states that the staff would screen different videos at breakfast to
break up the monotony of fall camp. Each season, they would play horror films or
scenes of animals fighting (from a mainstream source, like Animal Planet) only
prior to the first day of full contact practice in pads. Selections on other days
included videos the players had made during the summer of their workouts, aFast
and Furiousa movie highlights, and a variety of movies and motivational clips. In
our September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we did not receive
any comments discussing this incident.
H.

Player Removed from Meeting for Smiling

According to ESPNas reporting, defensive lineman Malik Jones was
castigated by Mr. Durkin for smiling during a team meeting during the 2016
season. There was a preexisting rift between the player and the coach, which was
only amplified when Mr. Durkin observed the player not paying attention during
the meeting.
We spoke to a source who claimed knowledge of Jonesas current thinking,
whom we found reliable. The source states that Malik Jones currently believes that

85

the Maryland football program awas not a bad culture,a and the event he related to
ESPN was a amisunderstanding.a The source says Mr. Jones believes that the staff
had ahis best interest at heart,a and, apart from this incident, Mr. Jones did not
think the tone was too harsh. Mr. Jones transferred after the 2016 season. In our
September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we did not receive any
comments discussing this incident.
I.

Verbal Abuse of Player During Practice

An eyewitness observed a player come off the field during practice and take
his helmet off. The player was having difficulty breathing. Mr. Court approached
the player and yelled aWhat the f*** are you doing?a The player put his hand up,
unable to speak as he tried to get his breathing under control. According to the
witness, Mr. Court said aAre you crying, you f***ing p****?a
Finally, the player gathered himself, and told Mr. Court: a[g]et the f***
away from me.a A team medical provider was also informed of this incident, but
did not relay it to the Athletics Department staff because he had not heard any prior
complaints about Mr. Court. In our September 9, 2018 survey of the current
football players, we did not receive any comments discussing this incident.
Mr. Court denies verbally abusing the player. Mr. Court recalls that the
team was doing an ainside runa and one of the rules of the drill was that players
had to run off of the field. After a play, the player in question walked off of the

86

field. Mr. Court says that he told the player to go back and run off the field, the
player protested, and the two had a verbal exchange laced with foul language.
Mr. Court admits that he may have said, a[w]hat the f*** are you doing?a But he
denies mocking the playeras physical condition, or using the term ap****.a Mr.
Court believes that the player became upset because of how he was playing, as
opposed to anything that Mr. Court said.
More generally, Mr. Court admits to using profanity and slurs to motivate,
including ap****a and ab****.a He denies, however, ever using the homophobic
slur af*****,a although several players and coaches tell us that Mr. Court used this
term. Mr. Court also denies directing any slurs at players, save for one incident
during a mat drill. Mr. Court tells us that he discussed this conversation with the
student-athlete shortly thereafter, and they resolved any disagreement.
Mr. Court, players, coaches, and staff all agree that profanity was rampant
within the program and was used by players and coaches alike. Indeed, junior
football staff claim that they were sometimes the subjects of profane and
demeaning language directed at them by players.
J.

Players being Forced to Exercise on a Stair Stepper Machine with
a PVC Pipe

According to several sources, Mr. Court employed a disciplinary tactic of
ordering players to exercise on a stair stepper machine for up to one hour. This
was often the punishment when players would arrive late to workouts or otherwise
87

fail to follow Mr. Courtas instructions. This practice was referred to as the aJesus
Walksa exercise by a former player; we did not hear anyone claim that Mr. Court
used this term.81 In our September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players,
we received one comment discussing this practice.
Mr. Court freely admits to requiring this stair stepper machine exercise in
what he believed to be appropriate circumstances. Players would be told to do the
exercise for 15 minutes if they were late to a workout, because they had missed the
warm-up. If a player missed an entire workout, they were told to do the stair
stepper machine exercise for one hour with a PVC pipe across their shoulders. Mr.
Durkin also acknowledges that players were required to do this exercise, which he
deemed appropriate in certain circumstances. Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court further
insist that exercising on a stair stepper machine with a PVC pipe across the
playeras shoulders improves core strength and posture, as it prevents the player
from acheatinga on the exercise by leaning into the side handles of the exercise
machine. Our medical expert confirmed that the use of a PVC pipe while on this
exercise equipment is an appropriate exercise technique.

81

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/motivation-or-abuse-marylandconfronts-footballs-fine-line-as-new-allegations-emerge/2018/09/30/e7ab028e-c3dd-11e8-b338a3289f6cb742_story.html?utm_term=.043c5f6b2975.

88

K.

Player Complained of Bullying to Mr. Durkin

A former Maryland football player, Edward aE.J.a Donahue tells us that
during his time on the football team at Maryland, he experienced depression and
anxiety because of the bullying he received from the football staff, for which he
obtained counseling.82 Mr. Donahue also claims that Mr. Court had a practice of
afat-shaminga and humiliating players regarding their weight. Mr. Donahue has
described his time playing under Mr. Durkin as athe worst year of [his] lifea and
says that aitas hard to hear about it and talk about it again.a After the 2016 season,
Mr. Donahue left the football program, and he eventually transferred from UMD.
Mr. Durkin admits that Mr. Donahue came to speak to him in December
2016. He recalls that Mr. Donahue opened up about issues that he was
experiencing, some of which dated back to high school. Mr. Durkin denies that
Mr. Donahue mentioned afat shaming.a
In our September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we received
two comments about fat shaming incidents.
L.

The aChampions Cluba

Several players and coaches have mentioned the aChampions Club,a which
was a group of players recognized by Mr. Durkin. Players were eligible to become
part of the Champions Club if they had a strong record of attendance at classes,

82

Mr. Donahueas name is used with his consent.

89

practices, workouts, and other obligations and, in the coaching staffas judgment,
demonstrated maximum effort during team activities. A video produced by the
Athletics Department promoting the Champions Club shows events where the
members are celebrated and rewarded with steaks and crab cakes, while the rest of
the players received hot dogs, hamburgers, and beans.83 In one media report, it
was implied that non-club members always ate hot dogs and beans.84 These
Champions Club events, however, only occurred about once a semester.
Otherwise, all team members ate the same food, with many more choices than hot
dogs and beans.
Other football teams have similar groups to honor playersa efforts.85 In our
September 9, 2018 survey of the current football players, we did not receive any
comments discussing this issue.
The attitudes about the Champions Club appear to be divided. Some players
view the Champions Club as a means for Mr. Durkin to show favoritism to the
players he likes while demeaning the players whom he dislikes. A member of the
coaching staff, who spoke to the Commission anonymously, states that aa lot of

83

See http://www.dbknews.com/2016/08/18/coach-dj-durkin-implements-champions-clubto-promote-accountability/. The video is no longer available online. See
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2_eU39FB0Q&app=desktop.
84
See https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/motivation-or-abuse-marylandconfronts-footballs-fine-line-as-new-allegations-emerge/2018/09/30/e7ab028e-c3dd-11e8-b338a3289f6cb742_story.html.
85
For example, one former player states that the Ohio State football program has a similar
group.

90

players had a problem with the Champions Club being biased. It was wellintended, but it also felt like it became something to use against players to get them
to fall in line.a One player claims that he was denied Champions Club status even
though he rightfully earned it.
Other players saw it as an appropriate incentive for players to do what was
expected of them. According to former Maryland quarterback Perry Hills, the
Champions Club was a way of getting players to abuy-in.a86 aThereas guys who
are buying in that have done the things that heas asked. And he wants to show
people that if they join in and do those things that heas asking, that theyare going to
be rewarded.a87
Mr. Durkin, for his part, states that his intention behind the Champions Club
was to reward efforts, particularly among those players who receive less playing
time. According to Mr. Durkin, athe Champions Club was created to reward those
who donat get all the recognition. This is my way of rewarding walk-ons and guys
who donat get all of the playing time.a Mr. Durkin also describes the Champions
Club as an ainclusive group,a meaning that he wanted to encourage all members of
the team to earn their way to becoming part of the group.88

Mr. Hillsas name is used with his consent.
The video is no longer available online. See
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2_eU39FB0Q&app=desktop.
88
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2_eU39FB0Q&app=desktop.
86
87

91

VI.

Culture Assessment
College football is demanding and can be physically brutal. It can also build

character, teach team work and sportsmanship, and prepare participants for
successful careers and lives long after competitive athletics ends. For those who
are provided the opportunity and choose to participate, the University should not
only provide an environment that challenges players to be the best athletes they can
be and prepares them to fairly compete at the highest levels of Division I football,
but also supports them and conscientiously mitigates the on-the-field and off-thefield risks of competitive collegiate sports.
A.

The Process of Assessing Culture

Defining culture, much less measuring it, is a difficult task.89 We
approached this challenge by trying to get as many perspectives as possible from
the aconsumersa of the football programacurrent and former players, and their
parentsaas well as from the aprovidersa of the programacoaches and staff.
We wanted everyone involved with the program to have an opportunity to be
heard. We contacted, by email, phone, or both, virtually every single player who
played for Coach Durkin at Maryland.90 We also sent a memorandum to the

89

See https://www.newyorker.com/books/joshua-rothman/meaning-culture.
We made multiple attempts to speak with Elijah and Elisha Daniels. Roderick Vereen, a
Florida-based attorney, had previously written the University, advising that he represented
Kimberly Daniels and her sons, and directed the University to route all communications to his
clients through him. See Appendix 13. On August 15, 2018, the Commission sent an email to
Mr. Vereen and asked to speak to his clients. See Appendix 14. Mr. Vereen failed to respond.
90

92

playersa parents, collaborated with the parentsa liaison, Mark Roski, to spread word
of our interest in speaking to parents, and made six sets of interviewers available
on the day of the intra-squad scrimmage (August 18, 2018).91 All told, we spoke to
165 people, as described in Section II.
Most importantly, we spoke with 55 student-athletes who played football at
Maryland under Coach Durkin. We also anonymously surveyed 94 of the current
players.
In addition, we reviewed prior survey data. Following both the 2016 and
2017 football seasons, football players were provided with an anonymous
voluntary online survey. This was valuable data, as it demonstrated the stark
difference in the attitudes of the players before and after the McNair tragedy.
We are grateful to everyone who shared their thoughts. Collectively, this
process yielded several hundred hours of conversations with the people who know
the program best. What we attempt to do below is to provide a representative
sampling of the wide spectrum of viewpoints we heard.

After the publication of the Washington Post article on September 30, we made more attempts to
contact Ms. Daniels through Mr. Vereen by email and telephone, but again received no response.
91
We are grateful to Mr. Roski. He generously volunteered his time and energy to help us
get word to parents of players about our interest in obtaining their views and shared with them
how to get in touch with us.

93

B.

The 2016 and 2017 Football Team Survey Data

NCAA rules require that its member schools conduct exit interviews of
selected student-athletes as they depart the school.92 The Athletics Department
satisfied this mandate by taking surveys of the football team after the 2016 and
2017 seasons. The surveys were emailed to all players on March 3, 2017, and
December 7, 2017, respectively, with follow-up reminders. The results of these
surveys are included in Appendices 9 and 10; we have redacted the names of the
respondents.93
For 2016, 48 players responded out of approximately 110. In 2017, the
number of respondents dipped to 20.94 There were not as many email reminders
sent in connection with the 2017 survey, which may account, at least in part, for
the decreased participation.
The 2016 survey showed strong player approval for the quality of coaching.
In the 2016 survey, 43 out of 46 respondents either aAgreeda or aStrongly Agreeda
that the quality of head coaching and assistant coaching was adequate and
appropriate. 41 out of 46 respondents stated that they were not subject to

92

NCAA Manual Article 6 Institutional Control, Rule 6.3 Exit Interviews.
We also reviewed results from an anonymous survey collected in May 2016. As the
questions did not specify whether feedback was being provided on Coach Edsall or Coach
Durkin, this survey was not useful in the Commissionas analysis (Durkinas employment began in
December 2015, and he served as head coach during spring practices).
94
Though 48 and 20 individuals responded to questions in each survey, respectively, they did
not all answer every question, which accounts for the lower number of responses for some of the
data discussed herein.
93

94

inappropriate physical conduct, verbal communication, or mental/emotional stress.
Four respondents were neutral, and only one respondent aDisagreeda or aStrongly
Disagreeda with each of these queries.
At least 85% of the respondents aAgreeda or aStrongly Agreeda that: 1) they
had a positive experience with medical/training staff, 2) they were pleased with the
level of care received, and 3) the staff was available to the student-athletes. Out of
46 respondents, all except one either aAgreeda or aStrongly Agreeda that they had
a positive experience with the S&C staff, and that the staff met their needs.
In the 2017 survey, 16 out of 18 respondents (89%) either aAgreeda or
aStrongly Agreeda that the quality of head coaching and assistant coaching was
adequate and appropriate; the other two were neutral. Similar responses were
given regarding inappropriate physical conduct, verbal communication, or
mental/emotional stress; only one respondent stated that he was subject to
inappropriate physical contact, verbal communication, and mental/emotional
stress. The players also endorsed the medical staff; there was only one negative
response to a total of nine different questions regarding the quality of the
medical/training staffas services. All player responses were positive or neutral
regarding the quality of the S&C program. The two specific comments made
about the S&C team were: a[m]y strength coach has worked with many athletes
and all results have been positive,a and aCoach Court and staff are great.a

95

C.

The September 9, 2018 Survey Conducted by the Independent
Commission

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, we asked the players to take an anonymous,
online survey at Gossett for thirty minutes.95 The survey was administered by
RealRecruit, Inc., an independent intercollegiate sports assessment surveyor with
no prior affiliation with UMD. Neither the coaching staff nor the players were
informed of this survey until that morning. Ninety-four playersaalmost everyone
presentatook the survey. There was also an interactive feature used by the
Commission to ask follow-up questions to the anonymous student-athletes to gain
additional information or clarification.
The survey contained ranking questions. For example, the first question
was, aRate your overall experience as a member of the University of Maryland
football team.a The player could rate the program from 0.5 to 5 stars, in one-half
star increments.
The survey also contained short answer questions such as a[h]ow would you
describe the culture of the Maryland football program?a The complete set of
survey questions is published in Appendix 12. The players were instructed to base
their answers on the football program as they experienced it from the beginning of

95

The Survey Welcome Letter received by the players is included as Appendix 15.

96

their Maryland careers to the point in time when Coach Durkin was placed on paid
administrative leave (August 11, 2018).
Many of the ranking questions we used were identical to questions posed to
32 Division I college football teams by RealRecruit during the 2016 and 2017
football seasons (the same period for which we were surveying). None of these
other surveys, however, were taken in response to a specific incident, but were
instead collected as part of the football programsa customary postseason
assessment process. We were able to compare the responses of the Maryland
football team to the attitudes of these other schoolsa teams from the 2017 season,
recognizing that there were some differences in the circumstances that led to the
surveys.

Contingent
32 Team
comparison
UMD
players (94)
Freshmen
UMD (28)
Sophomores
UMD (30)
Juniors
UMD (17)
Seniors
UMD (19)

DJ
Rick Court
Overall
Team
Durkin
(vs.
Culture/Values
Experience
Chemistry (vs. Head Assistant
Coaches) Coaches)
3.8

3.8

4.1

3.8

4.2

3.1

3.0

3.9

3.0

2.3

3.6

3.7

4.1

3.0

2.2

3.1

2.8

3.9

3.0

2.4

2.9

3.0

3.7

3.3

2.4

2.9

2.7

3.6

2.9

2.3

97

The first row of this chart (numbers bolded and underlined) shows the
average answers for each question (on a scale of 0.5 to 5) for the other 32 football
teams that RealRecruit tested with identical questions. The remaining rows show
the Maryland playersa responses, first in the aggregate, and then broken down by
class.
Maryland fared poorly against the comparative team data. It ranked 29th out
of 33 in terms of aOverall Experience.a On the Culture/Values question, Maryland
ranked below all but one of 32 teams.96 Maryland was somewhat better in Team
Chemistry, ranking 25th out of 32 teams. Coach Durkin ranked 28th out of 29
compared to how other teams ranked the effectiveness of their head coaches. He
ranked somewhat better, 25th out of 29 on the anet promotera scale. aNet
promotersa are those who gave Coach Durkin extremely high marks, and hence are
considered apromotersa of the program. The anet promotera score was based on
this question: aHow likely are you to recommend Coach Durkin to a recruited
friend?a Coach Durkinas rating on aCoaching Stylea was 2.7, which was 0.9
below the average from other schools.
Coach Courtas scores were extremely poor by any standard: significantly
worse than the program as a whole and worse than the scores given to Coach

96

Not all teams were asked every ranking question that the Maryland team was asked. This
is why there are not comparisons for all 32 teams for each question.

98

Durkin or his staff. The players provided a much higher score for team chemistry
(3.9) than culture (3.0), and this difference may help describe the impact of Coach
Court on the playersa overall assessment of the program.
Seniors97 provided the harshest assessments overall, and freshmen held the
most positive views of the program, on average. Yet even here the results were
mixed, with juniors providing Coach Durkin with his highest ranking amongst the
classes. This data tracks to some degree with our interview data. The players
almost uniformly stated that the 2016 season was much more difficult and
challenging than 2017. Moreover, most of the specific allegations against Coach
Court described conduct that occurred in 2016. Some players noted that the 2017
atmosphere was much more conducive to football and player improvement, and
that the early 2018 atmosphere even more so, but scars lingered from Coach
Courtas abusive language and conduct during his first season.
We also broke down the data by Offense/Defense/Special teams.98 The
differences in attitudes amongst these groups were modest.

97

This included both fourth and fifth year seniors.
How did we do this if the survey was anonymous? RealRecruit, Inc., the surveyor, coded
the players by certain criteria, such as class, position, and ethnicity when it compiled the data.
RealRecruit kept all this information on its side of the avirtual wall,a however, so the
Commission could not identify any individual playeras responses.
98

99

DJ
Rick Court
Position
Overall
Team
Durkin
Culture/Values
(vs. assistant
Group Experience
Chemistry (vs. Head
coaches)
Coaches)
Offense
3.1
2.9
3.8
2.9
2.4
(46)
Defense
3.2
3.2
4.0
3.3
2.1
(40)
Special
3.4
3.3
3.7
2.9
2.9
Teams
(8)
Ethnicity is not a large factor. African-Americans and other non-Caucasians
were more supportive of the program and of Coach Durkin than Caucasians, but
were harsher in their assessments of Coach Court.

Ethnicity

NonCaucasian
(66)
Caucasian
(28)

DJ
Durkin
Rick Court
Overall
Team
Culture/Values
(vs.
(vs. assistant
Experience
Chemistry
Head
coaches)
Coaches)
3.2

3.1

3.9

3.1

2.2

2.9

2.9

3.7

2.9

2.6

Whether a player was a starter or not was also not a significant factor. As
shown by the data below, it is difficult to discern any comparable trends among the
various surveyed issues.

100

Playing
Time
Starters
(22)
Significant
Playing
Time (20)
Little
Playing
Time (52)

DJ
Rick Court
Overall
Team
Durkin
Culture/Values
(vs. assistant
Experience
Chemistry (vs. Head
coaches)
Coaches)
3.2

2.8

3.7

3.1

2.6

3.2

3.0

3.7

3.0

2.6

3.1

3.2

4.0

3.0

2.1

The 2018 survey results not only starkly contrast with other football teamsa
survey results, but with the prior yearsa surveys taken by the Maryland football
team. Why did the attitudes of the Maryland football team change so dramatically
between when the 2017 survey was sent out on December 7, 2017, and September
9, 2018, when the Commission conducted its own survey? We cannot say with
certainty what made so many players change their views about the Maryland
football program, but the following factors provide possible explanations:
i* The 2016 and 2017 surveys had substantially lower
participation rates (48 and 20 players, respectively) compared
to the 2018 survey (94 players). It is possible that in prior
surveys those with negative views did not participate.99 The
surveys were conducted anonymously using a third-party

99

More than one of the players associated with the criticisms in the August 11, 2018 ESPN
article participated in the 2016 survey.

101

vendor, but the players still might have feared repercussions.
For our 2018 survey, the players were advised repeatedly that
their participation would be anonymous and that there would be
no reprisals for participation. Thus, the players may have
expressed themselves more freely than in prior surveys, and
those players who typically do not complete surveys did so here
because they were a captive audience for the half-hour
period.100
i* Jordan McNair died tragically between the dates of the 2017
and 2018 surveys. This might cause players to view the same
events, as well as cast their overall impressions of the football
program, in a very different light. It is quite understandable
how the tragic death of a teammate and friend might color some
playersa perspectives on the program.
i* We have heard reports from multiple sources that media,
lawyers, and Maryland coaching staff lobbied players after
Jordan McNair died in attempts to shape the narrative to fit
their particular agendas. Both apro-Durkin campsa and aanti-

100

Some student-athletes still declined to participate in the survey, as we received 94
responses out of the full roster of 112.

102

Durkin campsa were rumored to have been involved in quiet
campaigning.
i* The players took this survey on a Sunday afternoon, after
returning from a road win against Bowling Green the night
before. The success they were enjoying (2-0 at that point in the
season, including an upset win over Texas in the season opener)
may have impacted the playersa views.
i* Many players commented that they had not personally observed
abusive behavior, but had read the ESPN articles or heard about
those stories. Some freshmen and sophomores commented
about anecdotes that occurred before they were members of the
team. Accordingly, there may have been an aecho chambera
effect that influenced some views.
D.

Representative Feedback from Current and Former Players,
Parents, Coaches, and Staff

Regardless of the factors that led to the attitudinal changes reflected in the
September 9, 2018 survey, the findings are of great value to the Athletics
Department and football program. Bill Gates advises: aYour most unhappy
customers are your greatest source of learning.a101 Another business expert shares,

101

http://smartbusinesstrends.com/bill-gates-quotes/.

103

aOur secret weapon for building the best culture is open and honest feedback.a102
Leaders are well advised to listen to those they lead.
In that spirit, set forth below are selected statements from the 94 players
surveyed, 55 current or former players, 24 parents, and 60 Athletics Department
staff (including football coaches and staff), with whom we spoke. These are the
people who know the program best.
1.

The culture of the Maryland football program

As with virtually every question we posed to the stakeholders in the football
program, our questions about the programas culture elicited a broad spectrum of
views. Many we interviewed shared criticisms of the program:103
i* aIt is a somewhat a toxic culture. It is an alpha male one. And
if you donat buy in to what they are saying they find a way to
weave you out. They use humiliation and talk down to players.
Some coaches are good though and show the players mutual
respect.a (Current Player)

102

Gina Lau, https://blog.enplug.com/37-company-culture-quotes.
For written communications such as text messages and survey comments, we have taken
the liberty of removing typographical errors, recognizing the informal method of communication
and the issues with typing on a cell phone or iPad. We have not, however, changed the
substance of any message. Where we obtained the statement through an interview, we have done
our best relying on notes (no interviews were recorded), and we are confident in each instance
that we have accurately given voice to the speaker.
103

104

i* aI certainly have witnessed a mentality where everything is
hyper-aggressive and there was no room for players to show
weakness. The situation that occurred this summer was a clear
culmination of that with someone who didnat look out for
himself when he didnat feel well because he felt the pressure
from around him to not look like a afailure.a Beyond that, I
donat know much because my time here has been short. But I
can see where the environment is not suitable for players to be
comfortable and feel that everyone is looking out for them at all
times.a (Current Player)
i* aThere is no real culture; I feel like there is no fan base and the
school isnat really into it.a (Current Player)
i*

aItas been toxic because everyone was new and didnat know
how to run a program but it has gotten better over the years.a
(Current Player)

i*

aI have heard players and myself called ap******a for being
unable to complete workouts and the constant foul language has
become accustomed to our culture. It has been incorporated
into how we spoke to our teammates and coaches, but it isnat

105

seen as a negative because we are so numb to it now.a (Current
Player)
i* a[The culture was] miserable. I was very miserable the whole
time. I was depressed, tired, and most importantly, I hated
football. I felt like all the other players hated it as much as me.
I felt like several position coaches hated it as well. No one was
enjoying it for the two seasons I was here under Durkin it
seemed like.a (Player Survey)
i* aAppreciation for everyone is a very important thing, which
was the case at [last school] but isnat here. At [last school],
people noticed [the staffer] and how hard people worked, and
that was really important to be there for people. Youare around
these people more than youare around your own family, so you
should be able to get to know each other and have respect and
admiration for people there.a (Current Staffer)
i* aI donat know about toxic culture really or verbal abuse. But
they would say things that you donat say to another grown man.
Not respectful. P**** a** b****. . . . You canat call another
grown man that. If I were to call you or your family that, it
would be an issue. Iad be punished. You can yell at me; you

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would do that in front of my parents. But certain things you
wouldnat call another grown man. Fighting words. Especially
when you know the intent behind the words. Itas not your
friends joking around with you. Guys fight over that in
practice.a (Former Player)
i* aI know that other programs have similar intensity with
workouts and conditioning. I donat think that level of
humiliation is common. I donat think that the abuse is common.
The pejorative language regarding masculinity is going beyond
that and you become a bully and a coward. Words like a
P-word and B-word, it becomes bullying. Right under the N
word [because it] is a word [relating to] a kidas masculinity.a
(Parent of Current Player)
i* aI think it was aover the topa in the beginning. It goes
overboard because the coaches are trying to get the players to
abuy in.a Perspectives are different based on when the players
came in. Guys under Edsall probably hated it. As years went
on, peopleas experiences got better. Thatas why you donat see a
mass exodus. All that ESPN stuff was the first year . . . they
were going overboard.a (Assistant Coach)

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i* aThe thing Iave always told our staff is that we donat have kids
from [parts of the South] who have to go to the [NFL]. They
deal with cussing, foul language. Up here, you canat do that.
Kidsa parents are successful, and there is not the same push to
go to the [NFL] to be successful in life. Kids in the South donat
live like they do up here, and they need to go to the [NFL] for
their families. Itas a different mindset. But up here, kids might
react to being called a p****. Parents might be more educated
and react differently.a (Assistant Coach)
Others had far more positive comments to make:
i* aThe culture is one that promotes competition and those who
work hard are rewarded. That is the way it should be. In the
real world when you do not perform well, you get fired. The
same principle is necessary in football. If not, you will not
succeed.a (Current Player)
i* a[The culture was] intense but supportive and players were
always given an opportunity to improve.a (Current Player)
i* a[The culture was] hard and tough but loving.a (Current Player)
i* aI truly believe that every coach and staff cares about every
player and will do everything they can to help them out. The

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coaches help players do things that they couldnat do by
themselves. Durkin is a really good guy and really cares about
everyone and wants whatas best.a (Current Player)
i* aI canat speak for past actions by staff, but during my time here,
Iave been treated with the utmost kindness. All throughout,
Iave never had any animosity from anyone.a (Current player)
i* aThe Maryland program is more personal and cares more than
Penn State or Miami [other schools the individual was
knowledgeable of]. Maryland created a supportive, family
environment, which a lot of families believe in. The Maryland
staff and coaches were always positive when [this parent]
stopped by unannounced, and the coaching staff even helped
son with preparation of academic reports for parents. There
was nothing toxic about the Maryland football culture, and if
there had been, [this parent] and several other parents would
have picked up on it.a (Parent of Current Player)
i* aI enjoyed my last year with Durkin. The good parts of the
culture, the expectation of winning, not always the demand of
it, knowing we are getting better as a team. . . Durkin coming

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from big programs, myself and other players thought, athis is
the way a program should be run.aa (Former Player)
Others commented on the focus Coach Durkin gave to the development of
players off the field. The Commission heard positive recollections about aReal
Life Wednesdays,a which was a program implemented by Coach Durkin within a
month after starting at UMD. This involved the coaching staff inviting a guest
speaker to talk to the team about their story and experiences, with the aim of
teaching the student-athletes how to prepare for life after football. These
discussions frequently focused on how to be a good man and a good husband and
father, in addition to talks about financial well-being and planning for the future.
Many individuals the Commission spoke with expressed a belief that the
UMD football program possessed a similar intensity level as other Division I
football programs around the country.
i* aIave talked with guys at other schools, and I think that what
UMD is doing is not far off what other programs are doing.
This is D1 football.a (Current Player)
i* aUMD is one of the hardest working groups. I think the players
spend more time in their football facility than anyone in
America. There is some f***ed up s*** that happens other
places though.a (Current Player)

110

i* aUsing harsh language is standard for any team. Itas a bunch of
alphas, dog eat dog.a (Former Player)
i* aUMD is not at all different. I feel like it was just magnified
because of the situation with Jordan. I know people who
played elsewhere in Division I. Coaches yell at you, dog you,
etc. Thatas just the culture of football. Even with little league.
Not saying that itas right, but itas part of the culture of football.
I donat think football at Maryland was any different.a (Former
Player)
i* When asked if a player witnessed unduly harsh language or
verbal abuse: aI donat know how to tell whatas wrong and right.
Thatas normal all over the country. Curse words and words like
p**** everyone uses. I donat see it as demeaning. I donat
know honestly if itas demeaning or just regular.a (Current
Player)
i* aThere is nothing that is taking place that is uniquely Maryland,
there would be similar things happening anywhere else. If
Marylandas culture is toxic then all D1 schoolsa culture would
be toxic.a (A Source Close to the University)

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2.

Comments about Coach Durkin

Coach Durkin received many texts and emails from players, parents, and
others after the tragic events of May 29, 2018. Nineteen players and 14 parents
wrote to Coach Durkin, reaffirming their confidence in his leadership. The
overwhelming majority of these communications occurred after Coach Durkin was
placed on leave on August 11, 2018. In addition, seven former Maryland players
and three high school coaches whose student-athletes went on to play at Maryland
sent notes of approval and encouragement.104 Following Coach Durkin being put
on leave, he received a number of text messages in support. A sampling of these
are included in Appendix 16.
A source close to the University who interacts with and counsels players on
a regular basis and who has worked with other college and NFL teams discussed
how Coach Durkin emphasized that he areally want[s] and desire[s] that our
coaches develop relationships with players, so the relationship starts with knowing
their family life, aspirations, and building the strong relationships.a

Numerous former players and colleagues from Mr. Durkinas time at Stanford University
and the University of Florida, including Richard Sherman of the San Francisco 49ers and Dan
Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons, described Mr. Durkin as a high-energy coach, but one who had his
playersa best interests at heart. See R.J. Abeytia, Former Stanford Players And Colleagues
Discuss DJ Durkin, September 21, 2018,
https://247sports.com/college/stanford/LongFormArticle/Former-Stanford-Players-AndColleagues-Discuss-DJ-Durkin-Dan-Quinn-Johnson-Bademosi-Eric-Lorig-Toby-Gerhart-ErikLorig--121516300/#121516300_1.
104

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The September 9, 2018 survey of 94 current players included over 1,000
comments. The comments included a broad array of perspectives. Many
statements about Coach Durkin were either mixed or described ways he could
improve as a coach. Set forth below are representative comments made by current
players on September 9:
i* aIf youare not a superstar he doesnat really care about you. You
are just a number on the roster. He needs to learn how to
control his staff and become a decent human being. He should
not be our head coach.a
i* aHis greatest strength is his energy and intensity that he brings
to a coaching spot, he needs to put himself more into the
position of the kids and handle them more as if they were his
own kids.a
i* aHe is a young coach learning how to be a head coach. He is
very passionate about his job and cares about his players.a
i* aExtremely smart coach who knows what he is talking about in
all facets of the game. Great when getting one on one coaching.
When it comes to being a head coach he does not know how to
manage his players health and well-being. Definitely not the
ideal head coach.a

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i* aHis greatest strength is how much he cares about his players.
An area he needs to improve on at times is being able to
understand each player better.a
i* aIf he didnat want you to start he would do everything for you
to quit and make you look bad to make you think you suck.a
i* aHe loves the game, and loves our team. It is not his fault the
training staff didnat take proper care. He would never have
allowed that. He cares for us. He deserves to be back, was not
in the wrong. Never threw food at anybody or used physical
harm. Coach Durkin is innocent.a
i* aDurkin tried to discredit everything I have done up to this
point in my time here and called me a backstabber for trying to
fight for my job. There was language that crossed the line and
was pretty degrading.a
i* aCoach Durkin has given me tremendous opportunity. I have
been able to work while being a member of the team to help my
future career after football. I have the utmost respect for him,
he has always been a great coach to me.a

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i* aThe medical staff tried to comply to Durkin and not to what
they were taught to practice. Many players played hurt and
were forced to play when they shouldnat have.a
i* aHe needed to get Rick Court out, because a lot of the things he
did was without Coach Durkinas knowledge.a
i* aHe cares about the individual. He always promotes life after
football and drives our education into us as the most important
thing about being at the University of Maryland. He has an
open door policy. I know many of the players say our team
periods of practice are too long but thatas all.a
i* aHis greatest strength is that he was honest and passionate
about everything he did but it overtook his sight of how his
players were actually doing mentally and physically. I donat
think that he was healthy for this team and the greatest
improvement that could be made is for him to understand that
we canat do everything he was asking and work with us to make
sure we feel good and can play to our best potential.a
Many people interviewed had negative views of Coach Durkin:
i* aItas bulls*** that Durkin is on paid administrative leave. . . . I
donat think Durkin should be paid, and he should never get

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another coaching job. What he put us through is disgusting.
Iam not happy with less than a firing.a (Former Player)
i* aNo, I didnat think they had the playersa best interests in mind.
They had their own best interests in mind. It was clear that
Durkin didnat care for the players. Some of the starters he
might have cared for. But if you were someone they brought
in, it would be different.a (Former Player)
i* aShady s*** ever since Durkin stepped through the door.
Everyone knew that this isnat right. The program was based on
fear. What was in ESPN article summed it up, but it didnat do
it justice. Youad have to see it.a (Former Player)
i* aI heard from a friend that people would go into Durkinas office
to complain about stuff that Court was doing, and he didnat do
anything about it. He wasnat hearing it.a (Current Player)
i* According to a player, Mr. Durkin told him a[n]obody likes
you; why donat you just leave,a in a profanity-laced reprimand
after he missed class. (Former Player)
Yet the views about Coach Durkin were quite diverse. Many others we
interviewed had praise for Coach Durkin:

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i* aDurkin ran his program well. There were weekly academic
meetings and the teamas personnel were monitoring all aspects
of the playersa lives at school. Depending on the circumstances
some student athletes might receive a reprimand, but there was
never a meeting where I would have been uncomfortable if it
has been my son sitting in there.aa (Current Staffer)
i* aKnowing Durkin on a personal level, it was heartbreaking. I
know he cares about his players. I know he had a lot invested
in those guys.a (Former Player)
i* aWhen I tell you that Durkin loves my son, he loves my son. We
have had deep conversations about where my son should be. I
know pretty much all the parents that came in with the Class of
2020 and some of the junior, senior parents, some freshman
parents. There are a lot of protective parents, so if any of us
thought that Durkin was putting our kids in jeopardy, ait would
have been a wrap.aa (Mother of Current Player)
i* aIam proud to be able to play with him and proud to call him
coach. I feel the same towards the staff.a (Current Player)
i* aCoach Durkin gave everyone their opportunity to play and
treated everyone equally. It was a competitive culture, and if

117

you didnat like to compete you wouldnat have fun there, but if
you wanted to compete you could prove yourself.a (Former
Player)
i* aNobody is as dedicated to the program or as compassionate
and caring as DJ Durkin. While [a prior coach] ran the program
like a business, Durkin gained the trust of the players and their
parents. He brought structure to the program that did not exist
before.a (Football Staff Member)
i* aCoach Durkin is intelligent, motivating, detailed on what he
wants to accomplish. He will put his arm around you
afterwards if there is an issue on the practice field. Heall ask
you how math class is going, how are mom and dad. He has
playersa best interests at heart. He knows people handle things
differently.a (Football Staff Member)
3.

Comments about Coach Court

In speaking with current and former players and others who interacted with
the S&C program, many had strong feelings about how they were treated by Coach
Court. As shown by the anonymous survey results described above, the current
playersa perception of Coach Court was far inferior to that of Coach Durkin and
the program as a whole. The team rated Coach Court as a 2.3, and Coach Durkin

118

as a 3.0. Other Division I schools surveyed using RealRecruit gave assistant
coaches an average rating of 4.2, and head coaches a 3.8.
Several assistant coaches commented about Coach Court. He was described
as one of the hardest working coaches around, and apassionatea about his job. As
do many strength coaches, Coach Court used a Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale
to assist athletes in self-regulating their training intensity. See Appendix 17. But
Coach Court was not only demanding of his players, he also demeaned and
degraded them at times. One coach viewed Coach Courtas use of profanity as
averbal abuse,a commenting that a[i]f I were a parent and I watched that on a daily
basis, what took place in the weight room, on the field, I wouldnat let my kid play
for that program.a Other criticisms of Coach Court included the following:
i* aCourtas favorite words were p**** b****, calling people fat,
bringing peopleas family into it, every curse word you can think
of was used by Durkin, Court and their minions.a (Former
Player)
i* aWe were lifting and practicing way longer than we were
supposed to. I was forced to do things I couldnat do. Too much
weight was put on the bar for me to lift. When I couldnat lift it,
[Court] bashed me with horrible language.a (Former Player)

119

i* aCourt said to a player, heas a waste of life. He should go
ahead and kill himself, kind of in a joking tone. aYou should
just f****** kill yourself.aa (Former Player)
i* aI think they got out of control. Strength and training staff.
Rick. . . . There were times when you could visually see a kid
was struggling, and they would tear him down instead of
bringing him up. They berated the kid. Knocked him down.
Would have liked to see more encouraging the guy to say they
believed in him rather than calling him a p****.a (Former
Player)
i* aIad be midway through a workout, and they would throw over
100 more pounds on. Then Court would get on his hands and
knees screaming, calling you a p****. Court was just throwing
weights on until someone couldnat lift the bar off of his chest.
This was a normal thing for them to throw weights on, and if
you couldnat do it, you were the lowest of the low human
being.a (Former Player)
i* aUnduly harsh language? Yes. Rick would be on the bad side
of the line. I think Rick just opened his mouth and whatever
came out came out.a (Medical Staff Member)

120

i* aI kind of regret not saying it to Durkin, but the kids hated
Rick. Rick is the most talented person I've ever been around in
my life, but he canat shut his mouth. I regret not talking to
Durkin. The kids wanted Rick out of their lives.a (Football
Staff Member)
i* aI know Coach Court had developed a type of arrogance to him
where he couldnat see himself from a playeras perspective. As a
player you can feel the lack of respect.a (Football Staff
Member)
This may have been a change from Coach Courtas prior conduct at
Mississippi State, as one of Coach Courtas former colleagues on the athletics staff
there reported that he was avery surprised to hear about Rick Courta because he
anever had any issues with him at MSU.a Coach Court told us that he developed
guidelines concerning how much rest a player needs between periods of exertion,
though others claimed that Coach Court violated his own rest requirements.
One player tweeted a picture of the progress he had made between June
2016 and July 2017 in getting stronger, stating a[t]his is what happens when you
give your heart to @courtstrength every day. #Trusttheprocess.a105 Other players

105

@courtstrength is Mr. Courtas twitter handle.

121

also viewed Coach Courtas approach as effective at motivating players to build
strength and endurance:
i* aCourt may have yelled and cursed a lot, but Court is a atough
love type of guy.a He was never inappropriate, and Court
pushed players only so they would be better and so he could get
the most out of them.a (Current Player)
i* aCourt was probably too extreme with his language and crossed
the line sometimes, but weightlifting and conditioning is
supposed to be difficult. Some players didnat want to work
hard, which is why they may have had a problem with Court.a
(Current Player)
i* aCourt treated me well. Iam fond of Court, he helped me when
I was struggling with stuff. He wouldnat belittle me or call me
those names. He would have conversations with me about
improving. He was a good guy to me. I had a better
relationship with Court than with Durkin.a (Former Player)
i* Regarding the allegations of Coach Court throwing weights: aI
saw that as a tool of motivation to not give up. Coach Court
would never hit a player with anything, but he was trying to
motivate.a (Former Player)

122

i* aCourt is knowledgeable on the means to build a great team in
terms of strength and conditioning. Heas a strong motivator.
He cares a lot about the team. I wouldnat say heas any different
than other strength coaches. He pushes you to be your best.a
(Football Staff Member)
i* aRick Court was my guy. He was part of why I committed to
Maryland. Every time I visited, he took time to talk to me
about weightlifting. He would ask about my family. I really
like him.a (Johnny Jordan, Current Player).106
i* aCourt had a good approach with me. He would do anything he
could to make sure my rehab process went smoothly. Even if it
meant some days if I had a sore knee, Court would cut down
my reps to make sure I was healing properly.a (Current Player)
i* aCourt never attacked me in any way. If I was doing something
wrong, Court would come and tell me how I was doing things
wrong. He was never in my face. I honestly believe this is
because I tried to always get my stuff done. He was relatively
more calm to the people that got their stuff done as opposed to
the people that needed a push. There are players that need that

106

Mr. Jordanas name is used with his consent.

123

extra push, that extra motivational start. And it worked.a
(Current Player)
i* aCoach Court used profanity. The profanity was seldom
directed at a specific individual. When Court directed profanity
towards a person, he was trying to motivate, not to humiliate.
Court did not use profane terms as a weapon.a (Current Player)
i* aCoach Court took my son under his wing. He really cared for
him. The whole training staff spent an enormous amount of
time with him and working with him to get stronger. Court told
my son last spring that as long as he was there he would be
advocating for him. He was very positive and encouraging. I
met him only a few times, but Court would have my son over
for dinner and was really caring of him.a (Mother of Current
Player)
E.

Perspectives of Other Coaches

The Commission also contacted prominent high school programs in the
Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia area that regularly send players to Maryland.
Because of the potential for communication among high school and college players
and their coaches, the Commission surmised that candid impressions of

124

Marylandas football program may have filtered back to high school coaches and
athletic administrators at these premier feeder schools.
We reached out to 13 coaches and administrators, seven of whom responded
and agreed to be interviewed. With two exceptions, their overall impressions of
the Maryland football program were positive.
One coach said he has never heard a current or former player say a negative
word about their experience at Maryland. He heard no reference to a toxic culture
or environment, nor had he heard anything negative about Mr. Durkin. This coach
had never received any reports that the coaching staff was out of line or that
players had been abused. He knew of no students at his high school who crossed
Maryland off their list because of a bad reputation.
Other coaches expressly shared their support for Mr. Durkin and the
Maryland program. For example, Andy Stefanelli, the head football coach at Our
Lady of Good Counsel High School (Olney, Maryland) says he would not hesitate
to send his players to Maryland under Mr. Durkin.107 He relayed his view that
firing Mr. Durkin now would set the program back at a critical time when the
program is making real progress. With respect to Mr. Court, Mr. Stefanelli states
that Mr. Court was a highly demanding strength coach who employed more
stringent mental toughness techniques than his peers. Mr. Stefanelli did not

107

Mr. Stefanellias name is used with his consent.

125

believe that Mr. Court abused his players or demanded too much from them.
Although he acknowledged that Mr. Court would use coarse language, Mr.
Stefanelli did not believe he crossed a line.
The Commission, however, heard about two troubling incidents secondhand. An athletic administrator recalled a conversation he had with a former
Maryland assistant coach who had left Maryland. When the high school
administrator asked why the coach left Maryland, that coach responded he had to
aget out of there because the verbal abuse of players was worse than at any other
place he had been.a According to this administrator, a coach at a peer high school
told him that the Maryland football program had a culture problem and was
abusive to the players. This statement by the high school coach was made prior to
the August 10, 2018 ESPN article.
VII. Injuries
A.

Data Comparing Injuries Suffered During Mr. Durkinas Tenure
with the Year Preceding his Inaugural Season

Dr. Klossner was hired as Associate AD for Athletics Performance in 2013.
Dr. Klossner and football trainer Wes Robinson established an injury database so
they could analyze trends and identify strategies to decrease injuries.
The chart they developed for football for a three-year period is displayed
below. During the first year, 2015, Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley served as the
head football coach (Locksley succeeded Edsall in October 2015). Mr. Durkin
126

served as head coach in 2016 and 2017. Both Mr. Robinson and Dr. Klossner state
that the methodology and protocols (such as when to order an MRI) remained
consistent, so that these injury reports are aapples to applesa comparisons. We
have recreated this chart verbatim below.
2015
2016
2017
August
August
August
Season
Season
Season
Camp
Camp
Camp
Total Injuries
Recorded
Time Loss
Injuries
Concussions
Total Illnesses
Recorded
Time Loss
Illnesses
X-rays

83

208

63

157

43

153

13

35

7

21

13

26

3

7

3

5

3

4

22

70

24

59

20

57

3

8

4

4

0

4

4

33

1

17

5

18

MRIs

5

31

1

19

3

19

Disorders

6

18

2

5

2

10

Surgeries

2

6

0

5

0

6

IV Fluids

8

9

6

5

5

7

Rx Meds

60

149

48

137

37

118

MD Consults
Post Season
Surgeries

126

475

105

246

57

235

n/a

9

n/a

4

n/a

5

As shown above, the total number of injuries has been trending downward
since 2015, with 208 total injuries in 2015, 157 in 2016, and 153 in 2017.
Concussions, illnesses, medical consults, MRIs, X-rays, and postseason

127

injuries also trend positively. The data shows a team that was healthier during Mr.
Durkinas two full years of coaching than the prior to his tenure.108
Mr. Robinson cites changes in weightlifting techniques and improvements in
nutrition as two factors that have contributed to the decreasing trend in injuries.
Mr. Court agrees with the reasons cited by Mr. Robinson, and adds several others:
1) deleting Olympic-style free weight sets (e.g., dead lifts); 2) more extensive
warm-ups; 3) restricting exercises or range of motion for injured players;
4) utilizing sleep monitors; and 5) the presence of a massage therapist.
B.

Anecdotal Evidence

Although the decrease in injuries speaks positively to the performance of the
athletic training staff, players, and parents have nevertheless shared troubling
anecdotes about the handling of specific injuries by the football coaching and
training staffs. The details of these incidents are obscured to protect the identities
of the injured players. Because most players insisted on anonymity, we did not ask
the trainers or others potentially involved or seek to corroborate or test the
accuracy of these allegations. Without revealing the playersa identities, we raised
each of these allegations with Wes Robinson and gave him the opportunity to
comment.

108

We requested data for years prior to 2015, but this data was not available.

128

1.

Player #1

Former player Gus Little shared a story about the coaching and training
staffsa handling of an injury that took place away from the field and away from
campus. Because the trauma took place outside of school, Mr. Little sought the
advice of a medical professional who was not part of Marylandas football
program. That professional provided diagnosis and treatment protocol to this
player for an injury. Mr. Little says that members of the training staff were angry
when they learned of this outside medical opinion. In fact, he was explicitly told
that he should not have sought the medical advice or diagnosis of someone outside
Marylandas staff.
On another occasion, this time on the football field, Mr. Little sustained full
body cramping after what he described as a particularly demanding practice
session. While receiving an IV treatment at Gossett, Mr. Court allegedly called
him a ap**** b****.a Mr. Court was not apprised of the identity of the player, but
firmly denies that he ever addressed a player in this manner while a player was
receiving medical treatment.
Mr. Robinson assures the Commission that he would never have told a
player not to seek medical advice from someone outside of Maryland; in fact, he
has specifically arranged for student-athletes to receive care from outside doctors.
As to the IV treatment allegation, Mr. Robinson told the Commission that he does

129

not recall the incident taking place, and moreover, only physiciansanot athletic
trainersacould inject student-athletes with IVs. If they had played any role at all,
the training staff would have assisted with preparing the IV, but a physician would
have been present anytime an IV was used.
2.

Player #2

A parent of a player stated that, during a practice, the player experienced
head trauma during a play and adidnat feel right.a The player came off the field to
seek medical attention, but, before he could get to a trainer, the playeras position
coach intercepted him and sent the player back on the field. Two plays later, the
player was knocked unconscious on the field. Only then did the training staff
initiate the concussion protocol.
The parent also told us that his son sustained another injury later that
season. After the season, the player obtained an appointment with the leading
specialist in Maryland for this particular injury. According to the parent, the same
position coach would not let the player attend the appointment because it coincided
with the first day of spring practice.
Regarding the alleged concussion incident, Mr. Robinson denies seeing
anything of that nature take place. He adds that if something like that happened, he
would remember it. Mr. Robinson also did not recall a player being prohibited or

130

discouraged from attending a scheduled medical appointment because of football
obligations.
3.

Player #3

A player reported that he tore ligaments in a joint during a game. According
to the player, Mr. Robinson told the player that he had to play despite these
injuries. The player replied that he could play but probably should not. The player
continued playing.
The player also shared that he was given an incorrect diagnosis by Mr.
Robinson and the training staff. Mr. Robinson told him that he had a less severe
injury than ultimately turned out to be the case. The player now says that he has
chronic pain and nerve damage.
Mr. Robinson tells the Commission that he does not recall this incident, and
he further states that physicians, not trainers, are involved with evaluation and
diagnosis. As a trainer, his role during games is to get players off the field and to a
physician to be evaluated, as well as to communicate to coaches about which
players are available and which are not. Per Mr. Robinson, treatment during
games is almost always administered by a physician, not a medical trainer.
4.

Player #4

A player reported that he suffered a significant injury. The training staff
gave him a pain reliever, and he was cleared to practice the very next dayain full

131

pads and participating in hitting drills. In workouts following his injury, the player
was unable to do certain exercises. Nevertheless, because the player was
instructed to continue practicing, and because he perceived that other players were
practicing with similar injuries, he continued to practice. The player says that he
thought that he was pushed back onto the field before he was ready, but he also
thought that was part of football. The player eventually discontinued his football
career because of his injuries.
Mr. Robinson states that he did not recall the incident. He further explains
that if a pain reliever other than an over-the-counter medicine (such as Ibuprofen or
Tylenol) was administered, then it would have had to be prescribed by a physician,
not a member of the training staff.
5.

Player #5

A player reported that he was pressured to resume practice just five months
after reconstructive joint surgery. The player did in fact resume practice, in full
pads, with the clearance of Mr. Robinson. A doctor ultimately intervened and told
the player that he should not be practicing. The player continues to feel that the
training staff mishandled his injury.
In response to this allegation, Mr. Robinson explains that when a studentathlete undergoes reconstructive surgery, Mr. Robinson cannot clear him to play
football. That clearance can only come from a doctor. Mr. Robinson states that it

132

is possible that a doctor cleared the player for practice, but, based on the playeras
struggles or pain, the doctor would have reevaluated at a follow-up appointment
and decided the player could not participate. Mr. Robinson could not specifically
recall an instance in which that happened, but he says that it is possible. But he,
himself, could never clear a player to return to practice after reconstructive
surgery. According to protocols, any such clearance would have come from a
doctor, but due to HIPAA restrictions, we have been unable to confirm that a
doctor provided such clearance.
6.

Player #6

A player suffered a foot injury and reports that he felt rushed back to
practice in the spring to prepare for the spring practice intra-squad scrimmage.
The player questions the decision to return him to practice, particularly because it
was just a scrimmage. The player says that he was not physically ready, but he
played anyway.
The player also comments on the interplay between football athletic trainers,
notably Mr. Robinson, and physicians: aWes would try to speak to doctors on
behalf of you instead of you telling the doctor how you felt.a The player also feels
that Mr. Robinson astepped out of his realma and did not properly execute his role
as an athletic trainer.

133

Mr. Robinson states that at no time during his tenure has he prohibited a
player from talking to a doctor. Although he did not recall the incident
specifically, Mr. Robinson did say that he would at times speak with a physician
before a player was seen, just to give the physician a preview of what to expect.
Mr. Robinson would stay with the player while he was being seen by the
physician, or he would leave if the player did not want him there.
7.

Player #7

A source close to a player stated that Mr. Robinson adownplayeda the
playeras injury. The source claims to have been told that the player had a mere
joint sprain; in fact, the player later learned that the joint was dislocated. The
source felt that the injury was misdiagnosed, and the source further questioned
whether Mr. Robinson aknow[s] what heas doing.a
Mr. Robinson did not recall this incident, and he further states that the
allegation was too vague for him to formulate a response. Dr. Azar of our
Commission reviewed the MRI of the playeras joint and does not believe it was
dislocated.
8.

Player #8

A mother of a current player told us that her son was feeling joint pain, and a
surgery was scheduled. The surgery went well, and the family was very pleased
with the attention and care shown by the surgeon and training staff. A trainer from

134

the football staff was assigned to the player for the day of the surgery, and he came
to the surgery center and stayed with the player until discharge that evening. The
trainer made the family feel like the playeras well-being was a priority, and he did
everything he could to make the player more comfortable.
This player has had numerous surgeries while playing at UMD, and this
level of care was reflective of the attention paid to the player each time. He
received daily treatments and rehab after each surgery. Mr. Durkin also came to
visit the player in the surgery center.
9.

Player #9

A parent recalled discussing with Coach Durkin whether the parentas son
would play in a particular game. During the week preceding the game, the player
was cleared by medical staff to play. Mr. Durkin remained concerned, however,
according to the parent. Ultimately, Mr. Durkin and the parent agreed that the son
would not play. The son was unhappy with the decision; he wanted to play.
C.

General Attitudes About the Handling of Injuries by Training
Staff and Others
1.

Positive attitudes

Many players expressed approval with the handling and treatment of
injuries. Indeed, we received numerous comments from players and staff opining
that Mr. Robinson was being unfairly scapegoated, and that he was dedicated to the
playeras health. For example, one player reports that he was handled with great
135

care by the training staff as he recovered from joint surgery. Another player lauds
the training staff for helping him to rehab from a muscle injury, leaving it up to the
player to return when he was ready. Another player reports that he was treated
apretty wella and that he came back faster than he expected because atrainers took
good care of [him].a Still another player comments that the negative attention
directed at the training staff aseemed unfaira based on the playeras experience with
being treated for his injuries.
Coaches and other staff also offered positive comments about the training
staff. One assistant coach states, with strong conviction, that he had never seen
anything about Mr. Robinson that gave him any concern when it came to taking
care of the players. Another member of the coaching staff recalls an instance
where a player who was injured was held out of practice in anticipation of the
spring intra-squad game. According to a physician involved with the program, his
recommendations were never countermanded by the football coaches or the S&C
staff, and the physician never observed any players being rushed back from injury.
Athletic trainers also made sure that they understood which athletes had
physical challenges such as the sickle cell trait. Each student-athlete received a
laminated card, which was regularly updated, outlining whether the player had
conditions such as the sickle cell trait, asthma, or other physical conditions that
were worth noting. This information was also kept in a chart that each trainer

136

could see. Trainers closely monitored student-athletes with these special
conditions.
2.

Negative attitudes

Several players and parents express frustration with the way their injuries (or
their sonsa injuries) were handled or the approach to injuries generally. As one
player anonymously comments: aunder Durkin, you werenat allowed to be injured.
. . . You werenat injured unless you couldnat walk.a Another player states that it
was anever an optiona not to practice and that Mr. Robinson would often assume
that players were afaking it.a Still another player feels that players played injured
in order to show that they abought ina to the coachesa mentality. A fourth player
believes that the training staff should do more to evaluate player complaints and
injuries instead of simply telling players to apush through it.a A fifth player labels
Mr. Robinson athe worst f***ing trainer I have ever seen.a
Several other players and parents reports that members of the training staff
downplayed injuries and/or rushed players back before they were truly ready. One
staff member notes that, although Mr. Robinson is capable and effective in his role,
some of the longer-tenured players believe that Mr. Robinson changed his
demeanor to match the intense styles of Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court when they
arrived. That sentiment was echoed by some of the players, parents, and coaches.

137

Players and parents also comment about what is referred to as athe pit.a As
described by Mr. Robinson and others, the pit was an area off to the side of the
practice field where players completed conditioning drills when they could not
practice due to injury. The parent of one player claimed that the player rehabbed
privately, refusing to complain to trainers and coaches, for the purpose of avoiding
athe pit.a
The pit is an area including gravel and grass. Players who are not
participating in drills, or whose participation is limited because of injuries, are
directed there for a variety of conditioning alternatives while they await rejoining
practice. These activities include stationery bikes, strength equipment, running
drills, and the like. Adjoining areas to practice fields like athe pita are customary
throughout college football programs.
The playersa and parentsa opinions about the quality of health care are
sharply divided. Moreover, we do not have the means to independently verify the
integrity of the injury data for the years 2015a17. Nor can we verify or refute the
claims of improper medical treatment recounted above; between health privacy
restrictions and the playersa desire to maintain anonymity, this is an impossible
task.
But if the injury data are accurate, as Robinson maintains, this serves as
significant data that the S&C regime employed during 2016 and 2017 made

138

players healthier, on average, compared to 2015. None of this, of course, mitigates
the tragic death of Mr. McNair, nor the mistakes relating to Mr. McNairas
treatment, as documented by Mr. Walters. Nor does it excuse the other complaints
of medical mistreatment, if these complaints are well-founded.
Yet the mere fact that Maryland had established a robust injury-tracking
program strongly suggests that the Athletics Department was working diligently to
seek to minimize injuries and better safeguard player health. It was in the coaching
and training staffas interests to do so, not only to fulfill their obligations to the
players, but also because injuries can be a key determinant in a football teamas
win/loss record.
We acknowledge that the relationship between football and injuries remains
fraught with hazards. Doug Williamsaformer Super Bowl winning quarterback
and football coach and staff member in both college and professional footballahas
seen these issues for over forty years in both college and professional football. He
says:
There are many incentives to play hurt, or for staff to declare a player
fit to play in borderline situations. Players wouldnat be in this game
unless they are extremely competitive. They want to play and win,
even when their bodies tell them they shouldnat. The players are also
worried about keeping their jobs. Theyave seen players start because
of an injury to another player, play well, and take away the starting
job of the injured player they replaced. And the players donat want to
let their teammates down by sitting during a big game. So Iave seen
many players demand to play when they had no business being on the
field.
139

Coaches and staff want their best players to be on the field for the
same reasons. You keep your job in this game by winning. So
theyare under pressure, too. Thatas why it is so important that the
decision about ability to play be solely in the hands of the medical
staff.
VIII. Player Academic Progress Under Mr. Durkin
Important to an evaluation of an athletic program is the academic progress of
its student-athletes. There are three measuresafederal graduation rate (FGR),
graduation success rate (GSR), and academic progress rate (APR)athat
universities typically use to assess how they are doing, both over time and against
their peer schools. APR and GSR data are provided by Maryland to the NCAA
pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 14.01.6. As part of the investigation, the Athletics
Department provided the Commission with reports from 2012 to 2017. For two of
the three metrics (FGR and APR), Mr. Durkin presided over a slight decline after
several years of modest improvement. The programas GSR has seen small, steady
progress including during Mr. Durkinas early tenure. Each of the yardsticks is
calculated differently, the details and results of which are discussed in the
subsections below.
A.

Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) and Graduation Success Rate
(GSR)

The federal government mandates that all colleges and universities that offer
athletic scholarships monitor and publish its FGR, which measures the percentage
of students who complete a degree within six years from the school where they
140

originally matriculate.109 Only students who receive athletics-based financial aid
and only students who enroll in the fall semester are counted for the purposes of
this statistic; walk-on students are not counted. A student is credited with
graduation only if they complete a degree at the school where they began; some
students who transfer, as well as students who turn professional, hurt a universityas
FGR score.
How a schoolas FGR is calculated differs from how GSR is scored in a
couple respects. First, transfer students who leave a university in good academic
standing are not counted against the school they leave; instead, they are included in
the calculation of the GSR of the school to which they transfer.110 In addition,
GSR, unlike FGR, includes the graduation rate of students who enroll in either the
fall or spring semesters.
The chart below provides the FGR and GSR for the University of Maryland
football program from 2013 through 2017:111

109

See
http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/How%20is%20grad%20rate%20calculated_nov_2015.pdf
.
110
See
http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/How%20is%20grad%20rate%20calculated_nov_2015.pdf
.
111
As of the date of this report, the 2018 statistics were not yet available.

141

Federal
Graduation
Rate
(FGR)
Graduation
Success
Rate (GSR)

2012a13

2013a14

2014a15

2015a16

2016a17

63

64

63

67

62

73

74

75

78

79

As this table illustrates, during Mr. Edsallas tenure, Marylandas FGR and
GSR both saw a general, albeit modest, increase. Under Mr. Durkin, the FGR
dipped five points (from 67 to 62), while the GSR increased by a point. The
difference is likely explained by the fact that transfer students do not count against
GSR, but they do impact a schoolas FGR, and nine football players transferred out
of the University of Maryland during the 2016a17 school year.
Since joining the Big Ten, Marylandas football program has landed near the
middle compared to other Big Ten programs on both FGR and GSR, and that did
not materially change during Mr. Durkinas first full season:112

112

See https://web3.ncaa.org/aprsearch/gsrsearch.

142

FGR
2014a15 2015a16 2016a17
Northwestern
University
University of
Nebraska
Pennsylvania
State
University
Indiana
University
Purdue
University
University of
Michigan
University of
Maryland
University of
Wisconsin
University of
Minnesota
University of
Iowa
Rutgers
University
University of
Illinois
Michigan
State
University
Ohio State
University

93

92

92

70

73

75

69

66

69

65

69

69

65

66

66

63

66

66

63

67

62

58

64

61

53

56

61

56

59

60

60

58

58

53

55

57

47

50

56

64

57

48

GSR
2014a15 2015a16 2016a17
Northwestern
University
University of
Nebraska
Pennsylvania
State
University
Indiana
University
University of
Minnesota
University of
Michigan
Rutgers
University
Purdue
University
University of
Maryland
University of
Illinois
University of
Iowa
University of
Wisconsin
Michigan
State
University
Ohio State
University

143

97

97

99

85

86

85

81

80

84

76

79

84

69

71

83

72

79

82

83

82

82

76

81

81

75

78

79

70

70

77

71

74

76

71

73

74

66

71

72

81

74

69

B.

Academic Progress Rate (APR)

APR is the newest metric for tracking the academic progress of studentathletes. It is a team-based score that accounts for the eligibility and retention of
each student-athlete for each academic term. For the purposes of calculating APR,
a school can obtain eligibility points for each student-athlete who receives financial
aid and remains academically eligible and in school through the end of the
semester. A teamas total points are divided by the total possible points and then
multiplied by 1,000.
Each institution has an annual APR and a rolling four-year APR. If a
programas four-year APR score falls below 930, it is subject to a postseason ban.
This chart lists the Maryland football programas APR for the last five years:

SingleYear APR
Four-Year
APR

2012a13

2013a14

2014a15

2015a16

2016a17

977

991

990

978

965

950

973

977

984

981

Marylandas four-year APR peaked during the 2015a16 season, with a team
score of 984. That number dipped slightly during Mr. Durkinas first full year to
981, and the single-year APR fell to 965.

144

The chart below compares Marylandas multi-year APR to other Big Ten
programs since Maryland joined the conference:113
2014a15 APR 2015a16 APR 2016a17 APR
Northwestern
University
University of
Michigan
University of Illinois
University of
Wisconsin
University of
Minnesota
Ohio State
University
University of
Maryland
Pennsylvania State
University
University of
Nebraska
Indiana University
Rutgers University
University of Iowa
Purdue University
Michigan State
University

113

992

995

997

989

993

990

982

984

986

992

990

986

992

992

983

971

975

982

977

984

981

960

969

980

981

977

980

979
972
971
968

982
973
971
971

976
973
970
960

978

974

952

See https://web3.ncaa.org/aprsearch/aprsearch.

145

Since joining the Big Ten, Marylandas APR climbed into the top half of
conference programs, and even with the slight dip in 2016a17 during Mr. Durkinas
first season, it remained there, placing seventh overall in the Big Ten.
IX.

UMD Internal Controls Designed to Ensure that the Athletics
Department and Football Program Comply with Rules and Policies
A.

UMD Processes and Oversight to Ensure Sound Management of
the Athletics Department

Maryland recognizes that a[a]n intercollegiate athletics program can
significantly contribute to the learning and the public service components of the
campus mission.a114 Because a[t]he importance of faculty involvement and
influence in the institutional control and operation of an excellent athletics program
cannot be overestimated,a Maryland has developed its own athletic governance
standards to ensure NCAA and Big Ten compliance.
For example, the AD is aaccountable [to the President] for year-end results
of annual goals identified via the institutionas annual Performance Review and
Development (aPRDa) process,a which is aa detailed performance assessment tool
designed to provide a level of specificity and accountability for University
employees, including the Director of Athletics and other ICA staff.a115 As part of
its investigation, the Commission reviewed performance evaluations for
approximately 28 staff members. It is important to note, however, that no such
114
115

University of Maryland Institutional Standards, October 23, 2014, at 1.
University of Maryland Institutional Standards, October 23, 2014, at 2.

146

evaluations are conducted for the football coaching staff. They have historically
been treated as on par with tenured professors, who also are not subject to the PRD
process.
Institutional organizations also help Maryland adevelop and maintain the
best possible intercollegiate athletics program consistent with the academic
integrity of the institution and the academic and social development of studentathletes.a116 For example, the Athletic Council (which consists of faculty, staff,
student-athletes, and student government leaders) formulates, recommends, and
advises the President on policies that affect intercollegiate athletics. aThe Council
is also charged with monitoring the activities of the Department of Intercollegiate
Athletics to make sure that they are in compliance with Big Ten, NCAA, university
bylaws and regulations, as well as all relevant state and federal laws and
regulations.a117 Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 6.1.4, Maryland maintains a aStudent
Athlete Advisory Committeea that serves as a liaison between the university and
the NCAA.
Within the Athletics Department, the Athletics Compliance Office is
acharged with coordinating, monitoring, and verifying compliance with all NCAA,
Big Ten Conference, and institutional rules and regulations, and with serving to

116
117

University of Maryland Institutional Standards, October 23, 2014, at 2.
University of Maryland Institutional Standards, October 23, 2014, at 2.

147

educate the various internal and external constituencies of the University about
these rules and regulations.a118 For example, the Compliance Office consults with
a designated asports supervisora who is responsible for managing the coachesa
contracts, student-athletes, and the sportas financial budget. The Compliance
Office also hosts annual and monthly meetings with coaches wherein they discuss
recruiting, student-athlete eligibility, NCAA legislative changes, and recent NCAA
and Big Ten violations. Student-athletes also receive education regarding NCAA
and Big Ten Compliance issues on a regular basis throughout the year via atip
sheets,a social media alerts, and email reminders.
B.

The Athletics Departmentas Specific Internal Controls to Ensure
Compliance with NCAA and Big Ten Mandates

The Athletics Department maintains a number of specific internal controls to
ensure NCAA and Big Ten compliance. For example, Article 6.3 of the NCAA
Constitution requires a[t]he institutionas director of athletics, senior woman
administrator or designated representativesa to aconduct exit interviews in each
sport with a sample of student-athletes . . . regarding the value of the studentsa
athletics experiences, the extent of the athletics time demands encountered by the
student-athletes, proposed changes in intercollegiate athletics and concerns related
to the administration of the student-athletesa specific sports.a As part of the

118

University of Maryland Institutional Standards, October 23, 2014, at 5.

148

investigation, the Athletics Department provided the Commission with surveys
completed by Maryland football players from 2016 and 2017. These surveys were
conducted to fulfill the mandates of Article 6.3. See Section VI and Appendices 9
and 10.
The NCAA requires each member school to alimit its organized practice
activities, the length of its playing seasons and the number of its regular-season
contests and/or dates of competition in all sportsa pursuant to NCAA Bylaw
17.01.1. To satisfy this requirement, the Athletics Department maintains a
aCountable Athletically Related Activitiesa (aCARAa) report for each football
player, which tracks the amount of time spent on athletics-related activities.
During the investigation, the Athletics Department provided the Commission with
football playersa CARA reports from January 2016 to August 2018.
To address student-athlete health, the Athletics Department requires all
student-athletes to complete a Maryland Sports Medicine aTryout Student-Athlete
Checklist.a In this packet, student-athletes are provided with a number of
educational materials and medical forms, including: documentation of a physical
exam, sickle cell education form, aBig Ten injury and illness reporting
acknowledgement form,a and an ADD/ADHD education sheet and medical
exception notification form.119 Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 12.7.3, the Athletics

119

Maryland Sports Medicine Tryout Student-Athlete Checklist.

149

Department requires each student-athlete to sign a aDrug-Testing Consent Forma
in which the student-athlete aconsents to be tested for the use of drugs prohibited
by NCAA legislation.a120
The Athletics Department also maintains sports medicine policies that are
distributed to staff and student-athletes. For example, the 2017a18 Sports
Medicine Staff Manual outlines emergency action plans, clinical management
guidelines, mental health services, nutritional care services, student-athlete
administrative guidelines, and staff administration and management procedures.a121
Likewise, student-athletes are provided with a Sports Medicine Handbook that
details aspecific . . . policies and procedures governing the comprehensive services
offered by an industry leading sports medicine teama and outlines drug testing
policies and procedures of the Big Ten and NCAA.122
The NCAA and Big Ten provide that the President has aultimate
responsibility and final authority for the conduct of the intercollegiate athletics
program.a Accordingly, the University System of Maryland a Office of Internal
Audit submits to the President and other designated personnel a compliance and
operational audit report that determines whether sports programs are ain
compliance with NCAA, State, and University policies.a123 During the
120

NCAA Division I Manual at 78.
2017a18 Sports Medicine Manual E-Book and Staff Administration E-Book.
122
Sports Medicine Handbook at 1.
123
Football and Basketball Audit (5.10.17) at 1.
121

150

investigation, the Athletics Department provided us with compliance audits of
Marylandas football program from 2015 to 2017, and the Universityas responses
thereto. The internal audits did not reveal any remarkable findings.
A number of University policies govern student-athletesa conduct.
Specifically, the 2017a18 Athletic Council Policy Manual provides that aa studentathlete shall immediately notify his or her head coach and the sports supervisor
when he or she has been charged with a criminal offense, or [has committed] a
violation of the Conference Sportslike Policy, the Universityas Code of Student
Conduct, Code of Academic Integrity, or Drug Testing Policy.a See Appendix 18.
The manual also provides student-athletes with information regarding the penalties
for violating these policies.
C.

Marylandas Newly-Developed Athletic Resources in Response to
the McNair Tragedy

Recently, Maryland has made a number of enhancements which were
ainformed by the preliminary observations of the external review,a including: (1)
increasing the number of medical training staff; (2) adding on-site cooling stations;
(3) increasing the number and length of recovery breaks; (4) expanding the use of
cold tub/ice immersion therapy to include conditioning sessions and workouts
during the summer; (5) increasing the frequency of Athletics Department staff
training across all sports-related health matters, and (6) providing additional
support measures for student-athletes, which include the launch of aan online
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portal called Terps Feedback, which allows student-athletes to share concerns or
report issues securely and in real time.a124
X.

Conclusions
A.

The Players Who Spoke UpaBoth Initially and in Response to
Our InvestigationaShould be Commended

Several players expressed their concerns to the media about the conduct and
culture of the football program, which were first reported in ESPNas articles of
August 10, 2018. We interviewed most of these playersaboth anonymous and
named sourcesaand feel they spoke in good faith about what they perceived as
unacceptable actions by University employees. They did not come forward with
intent to harm the University, but rather out of concern and frustration about the
program. This frustration, by all accounts, had been building for some time; the
death of teammate Jordan McNair seemingly served as a catalyst for bringing their
concerns to light.
In addition to those players who spoke with the media, the Commission
commends all the current and former players who spoke with us, or took the
survey, as part of our investigation. These individuals spoke up about their
experiences, enabling us to evaluate the program with vital insights from those
most closely involved with, and affected by, the football program.

124

See https://www.umd.edu/commitment/taking-action.

152

Some have criticized players for thwarting the longstanding sports axiom,
a[w]hat happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.a We feel strongly
that this mindset is misguided. Many athletics directors contacted by the
Commission, in fact, insist a aspeak upa culture is critical in cultivating a thriving
athletics community that prioritizes the welfare of student-athletes. Whether their
comments were supportive or critical, the football players who came forward, both
with the media and with the Commission, should be commended. We are grateful.
B.

During Mr. Durkinas Tenure, the Athletics Department Lacked a
Culture of Accountability, did not Provide Adequate Oversight of
the Football Program, and Failed to Provide Mr. Durkin with the
Tools, Resources, and Guidance Necessary to Support and
Educate a First-Time Head Coach in a Major Football
Conference

During the 2016 to 2018 seasons, the Athletics Department did not
effectively fulfill its responsibilities. University ombudsman and assistant to
President Loh, Cynthia Edmunds, described the Athletics Departmentas operations
during this period as achaos and confusion.a A former coach compared the
departmentas dysfunction to aWashington [politics].a The University conducted a
Gallup Survey of employee engagement of all employees in the spring of 2016,
and then again approximately 18 months later. The survey results of the Athletics
Department employees deteriorated relative to the rest of the University, as well as
relative to its own 2016 scores, in the second survey. Jewel Washington, the

153

Universityas Chief of Human Resources, stated a[h]ere [in Maryland athletics],
there is no structure. That is not normal.a
The mismanagement of the Athletics Department had adverse effects on the
football program. We find little evidence of meaningful orientation and support
for first-time head football coach DJ Durkin. The importance of providing more
robust support for football was heightened by Marylandas entrance into the Big
Ten Conference in 2014. Reporting lines between football and the Athletics
Department were blurred and inconsistent. Assistant AD for Football Sports
Performance/Strength Coach Rick Court was effectively accountable to no one,
and the training staff went relatively unsupervised for extended periods due, in
part, to a rift between the AD and his deputy, which permeated the entire
department. There was no formal mechanism to assess coaching performance.
There was not a single performance review for Mr. Court during his tenure at
Maryland. The Athletics Departmentas compliance office lacked a system to track
complaints. As a result, warning signals about the football program, including an
anonymous email sent on December 9, 2016 (discussed in Section IV) went
overlooked.
The Commission feels there was also an insufficient level of in-person
oversight of the football program. This, specifically, pertains to former AD Kevin
Anderson and AD Damon Evans, both during Mr. Evansas time as Deputy

154

AD/Football Sports Administrator and his time as Interim AD. According to
official University calendars and multiple corroborated accounts, the Departmentas
oversight of the football program was sporadic and inadequate. In contrast, many
athletics directors at aPower 5a football schools told the Commission both they and
the sports administrator visit practices, weight room workouts, or both, at least
once a week, particularly in season.
C.

Mr. Court, on Too Many Occasions, Acted in a Manner
Inconsistent with the Universityas Values and Basic Principles of
Respect for Others

We spoke with Mr. Court and his counsel on three separate occasions,
collectively spanning over six hours. We interviewed dozens of players he
coached and dozens of fellow coaches and staff. The Commission believes Mr.
Court did have the best interests of the players at heart. His work, along with
others on the staff, contributed to significant decreases in injuries sustained by
players during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, compared to the prior year. He was
diligent in monitoring whether players were attending class and required team
meals. He established close relationships with some players and went abeyond the
calla on a number of occasions, even arranging for extensive medical procedures
for a player suffering from an affliction developed during childhood. We heard a
mixed range of views from the players, who ranked the strength and conditioning

155

(aS&Ca) program as the strongest aspect of the football program in 2016, yet gave
Mr. Court very low marks in 2018.
There were many occasions when Mr. Court engaged in abusive conduct
during his tenure at Maryland, as we document. While some interviewees
dismissed this as a motivational tactic, there is a clear line Mr. Court regularly
crossed, when his words became aattackinga in nature. This included challenging
a playeras manhood and hurling homophobic slurs (which Mr. Court denies but
was recounted by many). Additionally, Mr. Court would attempt to humiliate
players in front of their teammates by throwing food, weights, and on one occasion
a trash can full of vomit, all behavior unacceptable by any reasonable standard.
These actions failed the student-athletes he claimed to serve.
D.

Both Mr. Durkin and Leadership in the Athletics Department
Share Responsibility for the Failure to Supervise Mr. Court

There is considerable evidence, as described in Section IV, that there was a
lack of clarity in Mr. Courtas reporting lines. Mr. Durkin claims that it was not his
responsibility to supervise Mr. Court, but it was, by Mr. Durkinas own account, his
decision to hire Mr. Court as the strength coach. Mr. Durkin worked closely with
Mr. Court virtually every day, and Mr. Durkin delegated great authority to Mr.
Court. It is a head coachas responsibility to establish and maintain a healthy,
positive environment for his players, and to hire coaches and staff who support

156

these efforts. Therefore, he bears some responsibility when Mr. Court, the
Assistant AD for Football Performance, exhibits unacceptable behavior.
At the same time, we must acknowledge factors that likely played a role in
Mr. Durkinas failure to adequately address Mr. Courtas behavior. As a first-time
head coach, Mr. Durkin heavily modeled his program after coaches for whom he
previously workedamost notably, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaughawho have
achieved great success as tough, no-nonsense leaders. Mr. Durkin was hired under
high-pressure circumstances and tasked with turning a struggling football program
into a Big Ten contender, with less funding and fan support than other conference
programs. The Athletics Department provided little education around, or support
to handle, the myriad administrative responsibilities of a head coach, tasks Mr.
Durkin had not been delegated in previous jobs as a coordinator or position coach.
The Athletics Department leadership shares responsibility for the failure to
supervise Mr. Court. The confusion over to whom Mr. Court reported is a striking
illustration of the Athletics Departmentas disarray. Mr. Courtas contract designated
the head football coach as Mr. Courtas direct report. Mr. Evans and Marylandas
current Deputy AD agree that Mr. Court was supervised by Mr. Durkin. Mr.
Anderson and Mr. Durkin, however, contend that Mr. Court reported to an
Associate AD, Dr. David Klossner. Dr. Klossner denies this, but also states he did
supervise the S&C coach during Randy Edsallas tenure as head coach. Mr. Court

157

was not certain to whom he reported. Organization charts reviewed by the
Commission were inconsistent regarding Mr. Courtas reporting lines. Mr. Court
was not subject to annual performance reviews, nor was there any other concrete
mechanism by which the Athletics Department made Mr. Court accountable to the
Universityas standards. This confusion diluted Mr. Courtas accountability.
E.

The University Leadership Bears Some Responsibility for the
Ongoing Dysfunction of the Athletics Department

For more than two years, the Athletics Department suffered from high
leadership turnover rates, dissension, and internal rivalries. The Presidentas Office
became involved in 2016 and engineered Mr. Andersonas removal, initially by
designating him for a six-month sabbatical in October 2017. Dr. Loh candidly
states that, in retrospect, he wished he had moved sooner to change leadership.
This period of uncertainty further exacerbated ongoing turmoil in the Athletics
Department.
We recognize it can be difficult to make leadership changes, and this often
involves a protracted process. Yet, Mr. Andersonas sabbatical led to an extended
absence of effective leadership, as Mr. Evans was not named AD until July 2,
2018, about nine months after Mr. Anderson took leave.
As discussed in Section IV, there was a schism in the Athletics Department.
The Athletics Department dysfunction was largely due to a chasm between Mr.
Anderson and Deputy AD Evans. There are competing views regarding the causes
158

of, and responsibility for, this division. What is clear is that this schism caused the
Athletics Department to operate at a suboptimal level for an extended period.
Based on NCAA Bylaw 6.1.1, two members of the Commission would
assign ultimate responsibility to the University leadership for the ongoing
dysfunction of the Athletics Department.125
F.

The Maryland Football Team did not have a aToxic Culture,a but
it did have a Culture Where Problems Festered Because Too
Many Players Feared Speaking Out

Toxic means aextremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.a126 By definition,
Marylandas football culture was not toxic.
There was no uniform rejection of Marylandas coaching staff, and no
uniform rejection of the treatment of players, by any of the groups of stakeholders
interviewed by this Commission. The lone, clear consistency was that Mr. Courtas
level of profanity was often excessive and personal in nature. In light of our
conclusion that Marylandas football culture was not atoxic,a we do not find that the
culture caused the tragic death of Jordan McNair.
If the culture had been amalicious or harmful,a Mr. Durkin would not have
earned the loyalty and respect of many of his student-athletes and coaches. Many

See NCAA Bylaw 6.1.1 (aA member institutionas president or chancellor has ultimate
responsibility and final authority for the conduct of the intercollegiate athletics program and the
actions of any board in control of that program.a).
126
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, available at https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/toxic.
125

159

players interviewed by the Commission felt Mr. Durkinas and Mr. Courtas
coaching tactics reflected those of a abig time football program.a Players, parents,
and staff shared stories of generosity and commitment regarding Mr. Durkin and
his wife, Sarah. The mother of a former player recounted how her sonas employer
said Coach Durkinas job reference was the strongest he had ever heard. After more
than ten hours of interviews with Mr. Durkin, we believe his concern for his
playersa welfare is genuine.
Yet many players, parents, and coaches lodged complaints with the
Commission about both Mr. Durkin and Mr. Court. Frustrations were shared about
the intensity and length of practices and workouts, insufficient recovery time, and
the aforementioned issues with Mr. Court. While many acknowledged Mr. Durkin
is a fiery and effective motivator and communicator, they felt he could better
inspire players if he made a greater effort to listen to their concerns.
Mr. Durkin advertised an aopen doora policy, but many players and
assistants felt this did not extend to those whose opinions did not align with Mr.
Durkinas. Some coaches feared sharing criticisms about Mr. Court. They feared
retribution or dismissal of their concerns because of the closeness of Mr. Durkin
and Mr. Court. Some chose, instead, to leave the program. One former assistant
said a[w]hen youare at the mercy of leadership, you donat want to be at the mercy
of their mistakes . . . I needed to get out.a Several dissenting coaches explained

160

they prefer a more anurturinga approach with players. Others didnat mind atough
love,a but cited the need for counterbalance. aIf you get on a player for doing
something wrong,a one coach opined, ayou have to go back later . . . and put a
hand on his shoulder and let him know you care. I donat think DJ did that.a
For generations, the dynamic between coach and football player has been
akin to that of parent and child. Because the coach is the authority figure, the
player should respect the coach, follow the rules, and not complain. This appears
to reflect the general mindset of Marylandas players. Although Mr. Durkin created
a Leadership Council to, in part, serve as a pipeline to the head coach, players
rarely felt comfortable sharing concerns with him. Players also told the
Commission there was little benefit in approaching Mr. Durkin with frustrations,
particularly about Mr. Court, because they viewed Coaches Court and Durkin as
athe same person.a
G.

Maryland Should Institute a Strong aMedical Modela for
Student-Athlete Care to Improve Health Outcomes and Ensure
that the University is a Leader in Collegiate Sports Medicine Best
Practices

To re-establish trust with the student-athletes and other constituencies it
serves, the University has no credible alternative but to become a leader in the
development and implementation of sports medicine best practices. We urge the
University to strongly consider the recommendations made in Section XI of this

161

report and the Walters, Inc. report of September 21, 2018, to accomplish that
objective.
H.

There is Common Ground to be Found Amongst All of the
Maryland Constituencies We Heard from, Providing a Basis for
Moving Forward Together

While we heard both harsh criticism and high praise about Maryland
football, the players, parents, coaches, and staff were unanimous in their passion
for the program. All constituencies want the players to develop to be the best
athletes and students they can be. Many current players describe the team as a
close-knit unit, one committed to representing the University to the best of their
ability. With critics and supporters united in these objectives, the Commission
feels there is a strong climate for moving forward together. In the next section, we
provide recommendations to help accomplish that.
XI.

Recommendations
A.

Strength and Conditioning Recommendations
1.

Background

Strength and conditioning coaches have been a fixture in collegiate athletics
programs since the 1970s.127 Today, these coaches play a critical role in training
and conditioning college athletes across all major sports, and nowhere is that more
true than in football. Strength and conditioning coaches wield enormous influence

127

See http://www.cscca.org/about.

162

over players, so much so that one former coach referred to them as the ahead
coaches of the off-season.a128 Consequently, they wield enormous influence with
head coaches and power over student-athletes.
The specific duties of S&C coaches vary among programs but generally
consist of not only managing and administering exercise and weight training to
improve and optimize performance, but also monitoring player health metrics to
ensure they are ready to compete on the field.129
S&C coachesa domain is a unique one, where profanity is often
commonplace and the sight of objects being slammed and weights being hurled is
not entirely unexpected.130 What would be deemed unacceptable in most
workplace environments is the norm in many weight rooms, particularly during
Brian Costa et al., The Wall Street Journal, aStrength Coaches in College Football Have
Become Strongmen,a August 18, 2018 (quoting Rick Neuheisel as stating a[t]hey get
indoctrinated into this ahead coach of the off-seasona society, and then the strength coach
basically hands the team over to the head coach.a), https://www.wsj.com/articles/strengthcoaches-in-college-football-have-become-strongmen-1534506902.
129
Brian Costa et al., The Wall Street Journal, aStrength Coaches in College Football Have
Become Strongmen,a August 18, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/strength-coaches-incollege-football-have-become-strongmen-1534506902.
130
See, e.g., YouTube videos featuring Scott Cochran, football strength coach at the
University of Alabama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVFl0j8mwPs;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynt6UCzkdcc. Mr. Cochran is also known for slamming
and destroying a second-place trophy to motivate the team before the 2018 national title game.
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4McW2_-j9g. Other YouTube videos feature
University of Oregon Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Aaron Feld:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QB45uARFxNs; and University of Pittsburgh Strength and
Conditioning Coach Dave Andrews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwLyi7agYGo.
Recently, one of the strength coaches at Louisiana State University (commonly known as
LSU) was featured on ESPN for head-butting an LSU football player who was wearing a helmet,
while the coach was not wearing a helmet, during an in-conference home game. See
https://www.facebook.com/ESPN/videos/lsu-strength-coach-goes-wild/2276130299127345/.
128

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football training periods. Many feel this is part of a process that makes
student-athletes atougher,a pushing them to (and beyond) their limits, so they may
thrive as individuals and teammates. But ultimately, this mindset is subjective, and
has been called into question during our investigation.
Football coaches and athletics directors have increasingly come to see
strength coaches as essential to successful programs. This has led to head strength
coaches earning up to $675,000 per year.131 With increased compensation comes
increased pressure.
Commission member Doug Williams is familiar with this issue, as a college
football player and head coach, and as a NFL player and front office executive:132
Strength coaches are always looking for an edge in an incredibly
competitive environment. Games can often come down to a single
man on man competition, where a block made or a tackle broken can
decide a game. Itas the strength coachas job to make sure those
competitions are decided in his playeras favor. So the strength
coachas job is to make his players stronger, faster and tougher than his
opponentas players. That means pushing his players to their limits,
and increasing those limits. A strength coach has to be tough and
relentless: but he must also do this in a manner that is not demeaning
or dehumanizing.

131

See http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/salaries/football/strength.
Mr. Williams was the first African-American to start a Super Bowl at quarterback, in
Super Bowl XXII. He was named the gameas most valuable player. See
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/doug-williamss-super-bowl-win-30-years-ago-changedthe-game-for-black-quarterbacks/2018/01/30/6a5f2d06-05f0-11e8-b48cb07fea957bd5_story.html?utm_term=.22fcae2486e5.
132

164

Pushing the human body to its limits has been part of sport since time
immemorial. The marathonas distance of 26.2 miles celebrates the run of a soldier,
who (legend has it) ran that distance to Athens in 490 B.C., announced the
Atheniansa defeat of the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, and then collapsed and
died.133
Football is a agladiator sporta where pushing to and through exhaustion is
celebrated. But it has not been without consequence. From 2000 to 2016, a tragic
total of 33 college football players died during training.134 Only six of those deaths
resulted from player-to-player collisions.135 Those who choose to play in the most
competitive environments imaginable, like Doug Williams and Bob Ehrlich in
football, Tom McMillen in basketball, and Bonnie Bernstein in college gymnastics,
recognize that pushing their bodies to their limits is part of the commitment needed
to compete at that level. But from their experiences, all concur that this effort
should be accompanied by positive, not degrading, motivation, and that training
should be informed by the best practices currently available. This means adhering
to established guidelines and limits on the methods that S&C coaches may use to
train and inspire student-athletes in their charge.

133

See https://www.livescience.com/11011-marathons-26-2-miles-long.html.
See https://www.wsj.com/articles/strength-coaches-in-college-football-have-becomestrongmen-1534506902?mod=hp_lead_pos10.
135
See https://www.wsj.com/articles/strength-coaches-in-college-football-have-becomestrongmen-1534506902?mod=hp_lead_pos10.
134

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2.

Strength and conditioning rules and guidance

General mandates are set forth in the NCAA Division I Manual (the
aManuala), which states that a[i]t is the responsibility of each member institution
to protect the health of, and provide a safe environment for, each of its
participating student athletes.a136 The Manual also affirms that it is the duty of
aeach member institution to establish and maintain an environment that fosters a
positive relationship between the student-athlete and coach.a137
More specifically, S&C coaches must be certified in cardiopulmonary
resuscitation and first aid.138 If a member of the sports medicine staff is present
during a workout, that individual amust be empowered with unchallengeable
authority to cancel or modify the workout for health and safety reasons.a139 Also,
S&C coaches ashall be certified and maintain current certification through a
nationally accredited strength and conditioning certification program.a140 The
Commission has identified at least 11 qualifying certification programs and
standards, a few examples of which are described below.141

136

2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual 2.2.3.
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual 2.2.4.
138
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual 13.11.3.8.2.
139
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual 13.11.3.8.2.
140
2017a18 NCAA Division I Manual 11.1.5.
141
See http://postemaperformance.com/strength-and-conditioning-certifications-coach/.
137

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a)

CSCCa-SCCC certification and CSCCa guidance

One example is the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches
associationas (aCSCCaasa) Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (aSCCCa)
program.142 To obtain this certification, an individual must be a full-time
collegiate or professional S&C coach, have a bacheloras degree from an accredited
institution, complete a CPR/AED/First Aid course, pass additional written and
practical exams, and have either 12 years of full-time experience with a collegiate
or professional athletic team or complete a 640-hour CSCCa-approved
internship.143
The CSCCa also requires SCCC certificate holders to adhere to its Code of
Conduct, which requires coaches to:
i* Comply and adhere to all institutional policy and procedures
(collegiate or professional franchiseaNCAA, NBA, NFL,
MLB, etc.).
i* Treat and train every athlete with the utmost care and to the
highest level of professional competence, not discriminating on
the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, or national origin.
i* Train athletes only as their medical conditions warrant,
maintaining confidentiality of the athleteas personal medical
information.144

142

See http://postemaperformance.com/strength-and-conditioning-certifications-coach/.
See http://www.cscca.org/certification/sccc/not_fulltime;
http://www.cscca.org/certification/sccc/12_years_fulltime.
144
CSCCa Code of Conduct, available at
http://www.cscca.org/missionstatement/csccacodeofconduct.
143

167

The CSCCa has also published on its website a compilation of
recommendations and best practices for football S&C coaches.145 These standards
expressly state that atraining programs should take into account the level of
conditioning of each athlete, as well as any medical problems or conditions that
might predispose the individual to be adversely affected during conditioning
activities.a146 The CSCCa also recommends that special care be taken with athletes
who have spent significant time away from training:
Studies have shown that extended periods away from training reduce
an individualas physical condition, occurring within as little as four
weeks. One study showed that after an 8-week break in training that it
can take as many as 20 weeks to get an athlete back to his peak level
of conditioning. In spite of significant time constraints and immense
pressure to have athletes at peak levels of performance, it is the
responsibility of the strength and conditioning staff to thoroughly
evaluate the level of conditioning of all returning athletes and to
properly prescribe the appropriate volume, load, and intensity of
training, as well as sufficient recovery, to protect the health and safety
of the student athlete. We feel this requires more consistent and ongoing supervision.147
It is also recommended that S&C coaches, in collaboration with trainers and
medical personnel, adopt measures to address the risks of athletes training in the
heat:
For a variety of reasons, some athletes return un-acclimated to the
heat. It is the responsibility of the strength and conditioning coach to
help the athlete adapt to the physical demands of the climate in a
aFootball Strength and Conditioning: CSCCa Recommendations and Best Practices,a
available at http://www.cscca.org/educationalresources/healthandsafety.
146
aFootball Strength and Conditioning: CSCCa Recommendations and Best Practicesa at 1.
147
aFootball Strength and Conditioning: CSCCa Recommendations and Best Practicesa at 2.
145

168

responsible manner. Heat stroke deaths are preventable if the training
sessions are closely monitored and if athletes have been properly
acclimated. Fluids should be readily available and actively
encouraged throughout practice and conditioning training sessions.
Athletes and coaches, alike, should be educated on effective strategies
to ensure proper hydration and reduce the risk for heat illnesses.
Strength and Conditioning Coaches, Athletic Trainers, and Medical
Personnel should share in the responsibility of monitoring and
protecting the athlete from the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat
stroke.148
b)

NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook

Another set of relevant guidelines are contained in the NCAA Sports
Medicine Handbook (aNCAA Handbooka). It also emphasizes asafe performancea
and underscores the importance of accounting for nutrition and injury prevention in
devising training and conditioning regimens.
The first step to safe performance is thorough and competent training
of strength and conditioning coaches. Strength and conditioning
professionals apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the
primary goal of improving athletic performance. They conduct sportspecific testing sessions, design and implement safe and effective
strength training and conditioning programs, monitor facilities for
safety, and convey principles of nutrition and injury prevention as a
member of the performance team. Recognizing that their area of
expertise is separate and distinct, strength and conditioning coaches
can consult with and refer student-athletes to other athletics health
care professionals when appropriate.149

148
149

aFootball Strength and Conditioning: CSCCa Recommendations and Best Practicesa at 2.
2014a15 NCAA Handbook at 30a31.

169

c)

Big Ten Conference standards

Similarly, the Big Ten Conference Standards for Safeguarding Institutional
Governance of Intercollegiate Athletics (the aBig Ten Standardsa) require member
institutions to a[a]ssure that medical and athletic training staff who provide
medical services to student-athletes are able to exercise their best professional
judgment in caring for student-athletes.a150 Specifically, each institution shall
design standards that:
i* Prevent coaches from (i) having direct responsibility for, or
exercising undue or improper influence over, the hiring or
supervision of any member of the medical or athletic training
staff who works with the coachas own team, and (ii) attempting
to influence inappropriately any member of the medical or
athletic training staff regarding the medical treatment of a
student athlete.
i* Allow for effective implementation of and adherence to
institutional policies, procedures, and/or protocols regarding
student-athlete concussions.
i* Place priority on the student-athleteas health over other
considerations.151
In addition to the above requirements, the Big Ten Standards recommend
athat the Director of Sports Medicine Services should report to an academic or
medical administrator outside the Athletics Department, either exclusively or as a
dual report to the administrator and the Athletics Director.a152 The Big Ten

150

Big Ten Standards at 6.
Big Ten Standards at 6.
152
Big Ten Standards at 6.
151

170

Standards are distinctive insofar as they not only prescribe substantive guidelines
concerning risks and best practices, but also contain specific recommendations for
reporting and oversight. Together, these standards emphasize the importance of
S&C coaches (and indeed all coaches and members of the Athletics Department)
seeking and respecting the independent judgment of medical and training staff.
d)

University of Maryland Internal Standards

In addition to having guidance from the NCAA and Big Ten, the University
of Maryland has published its own Maryland Athletics Policy and Procedures
(aMAPPa) manual.153 According to the MAPP, a[s]trength staff members are
expected to treat student-athletes with dignity and respect at all times. Although
the risk of confrontational situations exist in the physical training environment,
strength coaches must behave in a professional manner, despite the
circumstances.a154 The MAPP additionally provides that athe strength and
conditioning unit will prepare a manual as a training guide to all members of the
strength and conditioning staff, including full time, part time, and intern
coaches.a155

153

MAPP Section 8.
MAPP at 92.
155
MAPP at 92.
154

171

e)

Other Strength and Conditioning Guidance

In 2012, the Journal of Athletic Training published a set of Best Practices
Recommendations by the Inter-Association Task Force for Preventing Sudden
Death in Collegiate Conditioning Sessions (a2012 Task Force Best Practicesa).156
The 2012 Task Force Best Practices encourage, among other recommendations,
that collegiate S&C personnel:
i* Acclimatize Progressively for Utmost Safety. aConditioning
periods should be phased in gradually and progressively to
encourage proper exercise acclimatization and to minimize the
risk of adverse effects on health.a
i* Do Not Use Exercise and Conditioning Activities as
Punishment. aPhysical activity should not be used as
retribution, coercion, or as discipline for unsatisfactory athletic
academic performance or unacceptable behavior.a
i* Be Cognizant of Medical Conditions. aThe likelihood of
preventing problems is enhanced when [S&C coaches], sport
coaches, and the medical staff are aware of the athleteas
medical history, supplement use, medications, conditioning
status, and acute illnesses, as well as other predisposing risk
factors.a
i* Administer Strength and Conditioning Programs. aIdeally,
a sport coach should not serve as the primary supervisor for an
athletic health care provider or for [a S&C coach], nor should
he or she have sole hiring or firing authority over those

156

Casa et al., The Inter-Association Task Force for Preventing Sudden Death in Collegiate
Conditioning Sessions: Best Practices Recommendations, Journal of Athletic Training, August
2012; 47(4), 477a80.

172

positions. The [S&C coach] should work closely and
cooperatively with the sports medicine staff.a157
Finally, the United States Army has published standards that govern physical
training of soldiers for military combat, many of which are remarkably consistent
with the above. According to the Department of the Armyas Field Manual No. 2120:
Leaders should not punish soldiers who fail to perform to standard.
Punishment, or especially excessive repetitions or additional [physical
training], often does more harm than good. Leaders must plan special
training to help soldiers who need it.158
Field Manual No. 21-20 also emphasizes the need for leaders to understand
soldiers as individuals and to motivate them to put forth their personal best:
To foster a positive attitude, unit leaders and instructors must be
knowledgeable, understanding, and fair, but demanding. They must
recognize individual differences and motivate soldiers to put forth
their best efforts. However, they must also emphasize training to
standard. Attaining a high level of physical fitness cannot be done
simply by going through the motions. Hard training is essential.159
Overall, the applicable rules and available guidelines collectively place a
number of duties on S&C coaches, including the responsibility to: (1) maintain
positive and healthy relationships with student-athletes; (2) understand and account
for athletesa physical and medical conditions as well as the environmental

157

Casa et al., The Inter-Association Task Force for Preventing Sudden Death in Collegiate
Conditioning Sessions: Best Practices Recommendations, Journal of Athletic Training, August
2012; 47(4), 477a80.
158
Field Manual No. 21-20 at 1-1.
159
Field Manual No. 21-20 at 1-2.

173

conditions in which they are training; (3) work with health care professionals to
ensure that athletes are training safely; and (4) honor and ultimately accede to the
independent judgment of medical and training staff. Other recommended practices
include refraining from the use of extra physical training as punishment and
providing oversight of the S&C coach outside of the head football coach. Scott
Stricklin, the AD at the University of Florida, said that S&C staff and athletic
trainers report to athletics department officials to ensure independence from
coaching influences.
3.

Recommendations concerning strength and conditioning

Based upon its investigation, the Commission concludes there are significant
deficits in the performance and perception of the S&C program at Maryland.
Remedying this facet of Marylandas football program should be a key priority for
the University. The Commission recommends changes to oversight and
governance, formal adoption and codification of best practices, greater public
transparency of training and exercise regimens in the weight room and on the field,
and regular and successive audits and surveys to monitor and evaluate progress.
The Commissionas recommendations include:
i* Maintain new reporting structure where strength and
conditioning coaches report directly to an associate AD, not the
head coach of the football program. We have discussed this
reporting arrangement with several athletics directors who
employ it, and all endorse its effectiveness.

174

i* Prevent S&C coaches from influencing medical and training
staff.
i* Adopt and incorporate recommendations and best practices
developed by CSCC for football strength and conditioning, as
well as the 2012 Task Force Best Practices.
i* Install video cameras in weight rooms and increase public access
to team practices and individual training.
i* Authorize a qualified, independent third party to conduct audits
every two years of the strength and conditioning program.
i* Establish improved methods of conducting anonymous student
surveys.
In late September 2018, Maryland AD Damon Evans announced that the
football programas S&C coach would report to the Associate AD for Sports
Performance instead of the head coach.160 Before this, the Commission heard
disagreement and confusion among players and staff about who reported to whom.
Lines of supervisory responsibility should be explicit and clear. The
Commission recommends maintaining the adopted model where the Associate AD,
not the teamas head coach, supervises and is responsible for the work of the S&C
coach. A recent survey of athletics directors shows a strong, emerging best
practice of S&C coaches reporting to a senior administrator. Finally, shifting

See Rick Maese & Roman Stubbs, Motivation or abuse? Maryland confronts footballas
fine line as new allegations emerge, Washington Post, September 30, 2018, available at
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/motivation-or-abuse-maryland-confrontsfootballs-fine-line-as-new-allegations-emerge/2018/09/30/e7ab028e-c3dd-11e8-b338a3289f6cb742_story.html?utm_term=.043c5f6b2975.
160

175

oversight would help ensure that S&C programs are aligned with the Universityas
overall commitment to the health and safety of its student-athletes, giving senior
administrators a direct line to convey and reinforce that message.
The Commission also recommends that the University put in place guidance
that precludes S&C coaches from influencing or interfering with the decisions of
medical and training staff. Big Ten Standards already call for this in principle.
Formalizing and emphasizing this with respect to the S&C coaching staff is critical
given the central role these coaches perform in the weight room and on the field.
The Commission recommends the installation of video cameras in the
weight room, available for regular review by coaches, University administrators,
and medical and training staff. Transparency and access will ensure a level of
public accountability that has been absent, as well as a safeguard against verbal
and physical abuse.
In addition, the Commission recommends greater public access to team
practices. The program can impose conditions on access that respect the privacy of
the student-athletes and account for the competitive nature of collegiate sports.
Although there are legitimate reasons to conduct team activities away from the
public, the occasion to do so should be the exception, not the rule. Mr. Evans has
advised the Commission that this may be done without jeopardizing team strategy.
Opening up what happens during preseason and regular season practices will

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prevent potential abuse in the short term and significantly enhance public trust and
accountability in the long run.
This Commission was convened in the wake of tragedy, exposing a number
of concerns. The Universityas commitment to addressing these issues cannot be
limited to what comes of this single effort. It must be prepared to diagnose and
tackle new challenges head-on, and confront deficiencies that, despite the
Commissionas good faith efforts, may have escaped our analysis. The Commission
therefore recommends that, once every two years, the University authorize a
qualified, independent third party to conduct reviews of the S&C program. We
feel this would convey the level of unwavering commitment student-athletes, their
parents, and the University community deserve, and guarantee that lingering issues
will not be swept under the rug. These recommendations will empower Maryland
Football to reinvent itself with the goal that its governance and best practices will
become the agold standarda in college football.
The Commission also recommends that, in order to ensure trustworthy input
from student-athletes, the University establish better methods of conducting
anonymous surveys among players with greater participation rates. One ACC
school, for example, has been able to consistently obtain 100% participation by
bringing the entire football team into a single room, having players complete the
anonymous, online survey on their phones, and not allowing them to leave until

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they show on their phone that they have completed the survey. (This is similar to
how we conducted the September 9, 2018 survey). Questions cover many topics
including academics, coaches, central administration, S&C, training, and physical
abuse and sexual conduct, and ask for scaled 1 to 5 responses that allow
administrators to focus on coaches who are consistently performing outside the
normal range. The Commission finds the failure to conduct consistent exit
interviews and low survey participation among current players has hamstrung the
ability of the football program to appreciate the breadth and depth of certain issues.
B.

Independent Medical Care Model Recommendation
1.

Background

Competing in the hyper-competitive world of Division I football requires
athletes to be at the peak of their physical capabilities at all times. An injured
player who returns to play too soon raises serious risks of exacerbating previous
injuries, becoming newly injured, or even suffering a serious injury that ends a
playeras athletic career. Extreme injuries can cause life-long consequences and
impairment. These concerns are ever-present in the minds of athletes and those
who coach and train them.
The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research publishes an
annual survey of football injuries; one of the co-authors of the 2018 report was
Dr. Klossner. During the 2017 season in high school and college football, there

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were four fatalities caused by brain or spinal injuries resulting directly from
participating in football games and practices, and nine fatalities caused by systemic
failure due to overexertion during football activities.161
Given these serious risks, a programas medical personnel are placed in a
difficult position of having to approve or deny permission for players to return to a
game or practice. Coaches typically want their players back on the field as soon as
possible. Players frequently feel the same way. For a medical provider to forbid
the player from returning to the field takes both substantial confidence and
assurance that this will not reflect negatively on their position.
2.

Health and safety rules and guidance
a)

NCAA Rules

The NCAA recognizes the vital importance of ensuring student-athletes
receive prompt medical attention, with their health as the primary concern. The
NCAA has instructed that universities:
should establish an administrative structure that provides independent
medical care and affirms the unchallengeable autonomous authority of
primary athletics health care providers (team physicians and athletic
trainers) to determine medical management and return-to-play
decisions related to student-athletes.162

161

NCCSIR Report at 5, available at https://nccsir.unc.edu/files/2013/10/Annual-Football2017-Fatalities-FINAL.pdf.
162
See http://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/athletics-health-care-administration-bestpractices-0.

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This care is intended to focusafirst and foremostaon the athletes. aThe
foundational approach for independent medical care is to assume an aathletecentered carea approach . . . which refers to the delivery of health care services that
are focused only on the individual patientas needs and concerns.a163 The NCAA
releases extensive sports medicine guidelines to guide medical providers in their
treatment of athletes.164
To best address each individual athleteas needs, the NCAA has advanced ten
guiding principles to assure independent, objective medical care for
student-athletes, which we recommend UMD adopt:
1. The physical and psychosocial welfare of the individual studentathlete should always be the highest priority of the athletic trainer
and the team physician.
2. Any program that delivers athletic training services to studentathletes should always have a designated medical director.
3. Sports medicine physicians and athletic trainers should always
practice in a manner that integrates the best current research
evidence within the preferences and values of each studentathlete.
4. The clinical responsibilities of an athletic trainer should always
be performed in a manner that is consistent with the written or
verbal instructions of a physician or standing orders and clinical
management protocols that have been approved by a programas
designated medical director.

163

See http://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/athletics-health-care-administration-bestpractices-0.
164
See http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/MD15.pdf.

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5. Decisions that affect the current or future health status of a
student-athlete who has an injury or illness should only be made
by a properly credentialed health professional (e.g., a physician
or an athletic trainer who has a physicianas authorization to make
the decision).
6. In every case that a physician has granted an athletic trainer the
discretion to make decisions relating to an individual studentathleteas injury management or sports participation status, all
aspects of the care process and changes in the student-athleteas
disposition should be thoroughly documented.
7. Coaches must not be allowed to impose demands that are
inconsistent with guidelines and recommendations established
by sports medicine and athletic training professional
organizations.
8. An athletic traineras role delineation and employment status
should be determined through a formal administrative role for a
physician who provides medical direction.
9. An athletic traineras professional qualifications and performance
evaluations must not be primarily judged by administrative
personnel who lack health care expertise, particularly in the
context of hiring, promotion and termination decisions.
10.Member institutions should adopt an administrative structure for
delivery of integrated sports medicine and athletic training
services to minimize the potential for any conflicts of interest that
could adversely affect the health and well-being of studentathletes.165
The linchpin of this system is that the medical personnelas decision is
entirely autonomous from coaching decisions. The NCAA Sports Medicine

165

See http://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/athletics-health-care-administration-bestpractices-0;
https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/2017SSI_IndependentMedicalCare_20170626.pdf.

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Handbookas Guideline 1B charges athletics and institutional leadership to acreate
an administrative system where athletics healthcare professionalsateam
physicians and athletic trainersaare able to make medical decisions with only the
best interests of student-athletes at the forefront.a166
b)

Football Practice Guidelines

Football practice guidelines also undergo routine updates in order to create
the safest environment possible for these athletes to train. With greater attention to
concussions and other health issues facing football players, these practice
guidelines have undergone enhanced scrutiny in recent years. The NCAA updated
its recommendations in January 2017 in an effort to enhance player safety:
i* Preseason:
i* Discontinue two-a-day practices. (A second session may
include walkthroughs or meetings but no helmets, pads or
conditioning.)
i* Extend the preseason by one week.
i* Reduce live tackling or thud practices from four to three a
week.
i* Ensure three noncontact or minimal contact practices per week.
i* Ensure noncontact or minimal contact practices are held the day
after a scrimmage.
i* Implement one day per week without practice.
166

See http://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/athletics-health-care-administration-bestpractices-0.

182

i* In season:
i* Permit only one live contact tackling practice per week.
i* Permit only one live contact thud practice per week.
i* Implement three or more noncontact or minimal contact
practices per week.
i* Postseason:
i* If more than two weeks elapse between the final regular-season
or conference championship game and a bowl or postseason
game, then allow up to three practices per week of live contact
(including two thud); add three days of noncontact or minimal
contact practices per week; and ensure the day preceding and
after live contact tackling practices should be noncontact or
minimal contact.
i* Spring season:
i* Hold a noncontact or minimal contact practice every day after a
live scrimmage.167
We recommend that the University adopt these guidelines as required
standards for the football program.
3.

Recommendations concerning an independent medical care
model

When a player experiences or shows signs or symptoms of trauma or reports
suffering a serious injury during a game or practice, he should receive immediate
medical attention. Regardless of whether this player believes he can return to the

167

See http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/football-practice-guidelinesupdated.

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field, an appropriate medical provider should provide a full examination of the
possible injury and should not allow the player to return without the approval of
the medical provider. In order to enhance accountability, this authorized medical
provider should be identified before each game and practice.
Mandatory medical examinations should be passed before allowing an
athlete to participate in football practices or games. These examinations should
occur before each season begins, requiring documentation of this examination and
approval to practice and play from medical personnel. The medical provider who
performs these examinations should not report to football coaches.
Where a player believes he is ready to return to the field but the medical
personnel disagrees, under no circumstance should the player be allowed to return
to the field. Only when the medical provider believes that the player is ready to
return should the player be allowed to return to a game or practice.
UMD should retain the authority to decide who employs the medical
personnel overseeing the football program. Options include UMD itself, the
University of Maryland, Baltimore, or a third-party.
Finally, all health care providers and staff with sports performance
responsibilities should meet regularly to holistically discuss student-athlete health
and well-being. This team should work collaboratively to adopt new best practices

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as they emerge and share insights regarding specific student-athlete health
concerns.
The May 19, 2017 memorandum from Mr. Anderson to Dr. Loh advocated
for enhanced collaboration between UMD and the University of Maryland,
Baltimore, along with the implementation of a new integrated program in sports
medicine. This program was not adopted due to cost concerns and a lack of
coordination with athletic trainers. However, this type of cooperation between
institutions to achieve NCAA best practices in sports medicine reflects a desirable
goal that should be pursued.
C.

Improving Accountability in the Athletics Department

Best practices in the area of Athletics Department organizational compliance
are evolving. Accordingly, these recommendations are general in nature, and we
would expect the governance of the Athletics Department to evolve as
intercollegiate athletics practices evolve. These recommendations seek to address
the most significant areas for improvement that we observed:
Management by Walking Around. There is no replacement for being
present. The physical attendance of senior athletic administrators and sport
supervisors at practices and team events sends a strong signal to student-athletes
and other members of the athletics community that they are important and valued.
The AD and sport supervisors should spend more time on the sidelines, in the

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stands, the weight room, or otherwise observing team practices and participating in
team activities.
Organizational Structure and Position Descriptions. Athletics
Department leadership should analyze and, as warranted, revise the organizational
structure of the Athletics Department and clearly define lines of authority,
responsibility, and reporting relationships. The compliance function of the
Athletics Department should have a reporting relationship to the Universityas
Office of General Counsel (aOGCa), as well as the AD. Many universities are
moving toward a centralized compliance function. Were the University to do that,
the Chief Compliance Officer could be substituted for the OGC. The Athletics
Department should maintain on its intranet site a current organizational chart
depicting the structure of the department. To the extent not already in existence,
the department should establish position descriptions for each non-student-athlete
athletics community member.
Comparative Analysis. The University should compare the Universityas
athletics compliance unit to that of its peers for purposes of evaluating the
adequacy and appropriateness of its current staffing level and resources.
Code of Conduct. The Athletics Department should consider adopting a
code of conduct for all Athletics Department staff. This code of conduct would
complement any other written standards of conduct applicable to the broader

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University community. It should reflect the Athletics Department staffas
commitment to comply fully with applicable policies, procedures, and rules put in
effect by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference, require the Athletics Department
staff to report suspected violations of those organizationsa rules and of the
Universityas own policies and procedures, and affirm the right of Athletics
Department staff to report suspected violations, anonymously if desired, free from
threat or fear of retaliation, and with the knowledge that their reports will be
maintained in confidence to the extent practicable and permissible by law.
Promptly upon adoption of such a code of conduct or of newly joining the
Athletics Department staff, and annually thereafter, each member of the Athletics
Community should certify in writing that he or she has received, read, understood,
and will abide by the athletics code of conduct. Promotion of, and adherence to,
the code of conduct may be considered in performance evaluations.168
Accountability Certification. The Athletics Department should adopt a
process whereby each head coach would annually certify in writing to the AD and
Athletic Council that his or her team has adhered to and been compliant with the
policies, procedures, and rules put in effect by the NCAA and the Big Ten
Conference, as well as other applicable University policies, procedures, and
168

Examples of similar codes of conduct include those of the Pennsylvania State University
and Indiana University, available respectively at
https://universityethics.psu.edu/sites/universityethics/files/revised_code_of_conduct_11.16.12.pd
f and https://iuhoosiers.com/sports/2015/4/1/GEN_201401017.aspx.

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standards of conduct including, if adopted, the athletics code of conduct. The
certification should include an exceptions list that notes any secondary violations
attributed to the team during the certification period and how those violations were
identified. It is important for the Athletics Department staff to understand that
discovering and self-reporting compliance violations are indicators of a healthy
compliance environment. Head coach certifications, in turn, should be presented
to the AD for review in support of that officialas own written certification to the
Athletic Council and University President that, other than as described in the
exceptions list, the Athletics Department has substantially complied with
applicable NCAA, Big Ten, and University rules and standards of conduct. The
Athletic Council should take immediate steps to address any lapses in or efforts to
constrain or condition the certification process and to report such action to the
OGC and University President, as warranted.
Training and Education. The Athletics Department should devise an
educational module that specifically addresses principles regarding institutional
control, responsibility, ethical conduct, and integrity. The Athletics Department
staff should be required to complete the course promptly upon hiring and annually
thereafter, and to certify, in writing, that he or she has received and understands the
training. The Athletics Department should maintain records demonstrating

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completion of these requirements for reporting and performance evaluation
purposes.
Onboarding. As suggested by the head of UHR, new coaches should be
provided an orientation program tailored to their position and experience. The
onboarding program should emphasize the mission and core values of the Athletics
Department, NCAA, Big Ten and University policies, procedures, and rules that
apply to their work and best practices for complying with them, and the larger
culture of which they are now a part. The program should identify key points of
contact throughout the Athletics Department and wider University, the resources
available to help them succeed in their role and fulfill their responsibilities, and
channels to report concerns and seek advice.
Performance Management Program. The Athletics Department should
establish a performance management system that evaluates at least annually all
Athletics Department staff (specifically to include all coaches), without exception.
The AD should collaborate with the Head of UHR to devise a framework for
conducting performance evaluations and for interpreting and acting upon their
results. The University should consider integrating the Human Resources function
in the Athletics Department with the UHR unit.
Channels of Communication/Complaint Tracking. The Athletics
Department should devise and implement a formal reporting and complaint

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tracking program, administered by compliance personnel. The program should
include a hotline that individuals may use to seek guidance about their
responsibilities under, or report suspected violations of, NCAA, Big Ten
Conference, and University policies and procedures. The hotline should be
accessible through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., telephone, online, email),
anonymously if desired, and free from the threat or fear of retaliation. Hotline
communications should be documented and tracked through resolution in a log that
includes a summary of each report or request for help, the status of internal review
and its outcome, and a description of any corrective or remedial actions taken.
Compliance personnel should regularly share information concerning all athleticsrelated complaints with the Athletic Council, which should be empowered to
escalate matters to the AD, OGC/Head of Compliance, and University President,
as warranted. Records generated in connection with any hotline communication
should be maintained in confidence to the extent practicable and permissible by
law. The hotline should be promoted in the student-athlete handbook, through
communications from coaches and administrators, and on posters prominently
displayed throughout campus in common areas where student-athletes congregate.
This program is not intended to replace any existing process or procedure, which
may be expanded to fulfill the spirit of this recommendation.

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The University recently implemented aTerps Feedback,a an online portal
that allows members of the University community to report concerns and ask for
help. This mechanism may be appropriate to use as one of the channels of
communication recommended here.
Exit Interviews. The University should endeavor to capture the
perspectives of at least 50% of departing senior student-athletes, student-athletes
who are transferring, and all Athletics Department staff who are leaving the
University. The information obtained through these exit interviews should be
documented and presented in summary fashion to the Athletic Council for its
consideration on how to further improve the Athletics Department.
University-Issued Cell Phones. UMD employees should not be
corresponding with other individuals associated with the University about
University-related matters on their personal phones. Use of personal phones
significantly hinders efforts to conduct investigations and reviews of past
correspondence. All employees who are expected to communicate remotely,
including football coaches who are frequently out on practice fields or away at
games, or recruiters that travel to talk with high school students, should be
provided with University-issued cell phones and instructed to use them for all
University business.

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When an employeeas University-issued phone is returned to the University,
such as when the employee leaves the University, the employee should be advised
to not erase any data prior to surrendering it, and the University should backup the
entire phone. This will allow the University to then wipe the phone and reissue it
to another employee, while still maintaining the phoneas data from the previous
user.
XII. Acknowledgments
This report is the result of over a thousand hours of work by the individuals
named on its cover. However, their efforts would have been for naught if not for
the tireless attention of their colleagues who were instrumental in making this
report possible. It has been less than two months since the Board of Regents
announced the composition of this eight-person commission on August 24, 2018.
It took the effort of the entire team to compile this report. The Commission
extends its deepest thanks and appreciation to Terri Dunn, Allison Palmere, Dawn
Kuhrmann, James OaNeill, and Wes Reichart, all of DLA Piper LLP (US), for their
extensive and tireless contributions.

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