Commission Probing Football Program Expands
Ehrlich, McMillen Among New Members
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., former U.S. congressman and All-American Terps basketball player C. Thomas McMillen, and Washington Redskins official Doug Williams were among five new members named to a commission investigating the culture of the University of Maryland’s football program.
Also late last week, the university responded to media reports that former Athletic Director Kevin Anderson had used funds controlled by the athletic department to pay for the legal representation of two student-athletes accused of sexual misconduct.
Commission on Football Culture
The University System of Maryland Board of Regents added the following members to the three previously appointed by UMD President Wallace D. Loh, with the intent of bringing broader perspective and additional expertise to the investigation:
Frederick M. Azar, M.D., chief of staff at Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics, and professor and director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship program in the University of Tennessee‐Campbell Clinic Department of Orthopaedic Surgery & Biomedical Engineering;
Bonnie Bernstein ’92, founder of Walk Swiftly Productions, former sports journalist at ESPN, ABC and CBS, and a former Academic All-American gymnast at Maryland;
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., former Maryland governor and former captain of the Princeton University football team;
C. Thomas McMillen ’74, former U.S. representative, current president and CEO of the LEAD1 Association (which represents the athletic directors and programs of the Football Bowl Subdivision), former co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, former member of the USM Board of Regents, and former All-American and Academic All-American basketball player; and,
Doug Williams, Redskins senior vice president of player personnel, Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and former head football coach at Morehouse College and Grambling State University.
The previously named members are retired U.S. District Court judges Ben Legg and Alex Williams and former federal prosecutor Charlie Scheeler. Additional members or advisers may be appointed in the coming days.
“The commission will be expected to do everything necessary to uncover the facts and share them with the Board of Regents, the university and ultimately with the people of Maryland.” Regents Chair James T. Brady said in a statement.
Brady added that once the commission has completed its work, the Board of Regents will take all steps necessary to safeguard and support students across the USM. “Ultimately, we hope the commission’s findings, which will be made public for everyone to review, can also help guide other universities and systems across the country,” he said.
The Board of Regents is also overseeing a second investigation at the university, into the June 13 death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
McNair, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound Randallstown, Md., native, was a four-star recruit from the McDonogh School known as a “gentle giant.” He was running sprints with the team at a workout on May 29 when he began showing symptoms of heatstroke. He was hospitalized and died on June 13.
One day later, Athletic Director Damon Evans held a press conference to reflect on McNair’s life and said that the university will launch an external review. The university on June 19 contracted with Walters Inc. to conduct a review of the care student-athletes receive before, during and after competition, which was scheduled to be completed mid-September. Athletics officials also implemented several changes for all sports’ practices, including installing new cooling stations and providing longer and more frequent water breaks.
Following media reports alleging verbal abuse and intimidation of players by coaching staff, university President Wallace D. Loh on Aug. 11 announced a broad review of the football program. Head Football Coach D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada was named interim head coach. Strength and conditioning coach Rick Court resigned on Aug. 14.
Loh and Evans met with McNair’s parents on Aug. 14, and Loh said the university accepts “legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day.” He announced the first three members of the commission to look into football staff conduct and the football program climate. The USM is now managing both investigations.
McNair’s teammates, who are preparing for the season’s opener against Texas on Saturday, plan to memorialize him this season and beyond, from wearing helmet stickers with his number, to establishing a named scholarship, to enclosing his locker in glass.
Allegations Against Former AD
Following multiple media inquiries into whether Anderson, the former athletic director, had hired and paid a lawyer $15,000 to represent two student-athletes accused of sexual misconduct, the university on Thursday confirmed how it had made—and dealt with—this discovery last fall.
Evans, executive athletic director at the time, first reported Anderson’s hiring of the attorney to the President’s Office in August 2017 after learning of an invoice from the attorney.
The President's Office, the Office of General Counsel, the Athletic Compliance Office and Evans were not involved or consulted in the original decision, and protocols requiring General Counsel to retain legal services on behalf of the university had not been followed, the university said in a statement on Thursday.
While NCAA bylaws allow member institutions to pay for legal counsel in proceedings that might affect a student-athlete’s eligibility, the university said in its statement that “the decision to hire this lawyer showed a serious lack of judgement in a sexual misconduct case.” Federal privacy laws prevent the university from releasing the outcomes of sexual misconduct cases.
To end the inequity created by retaining a lawyer for the accused students and not for the victim, the President’s Office immediately directed Anderson to cut ties with the attorney, but discovered on Sept. 27 that the arrangement was still in place. The Office of General Counsel then launched an internal investigation, whose findings have not been disclosed.
Anderson in October announced a six-month professional development sabbatical and resigned from the university when it ended in April 2018.
University officials disputed the lawyer’s assertion on Friday that Durkin, the football coach, hired him, as only an athletic director can authorize expenditures from the discretionary fund used to make this payment.