Leaders Offer Reassurances About Safety
By Lauren Brown
Photo by John T. Consoli
University President Wallace D. Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans personally reassured parents of football team members on Saturday that their sons’ safety and well-being is their top priority.
Loh and Evans also took questions from the more than 75 parents attending the closed meeting in the Gossett Football Team House. A scrimmage immediately followed, under interim Coach Matt Canada.
The nearly two-hour meeting was the first bringing together parents and the two Maryland officials since the June 13 death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed at a team workout 15 days earlier from exertional heatstroke.
“We have been communicating with our football parents for the last few months, but felt it was important to bring everyone together so we could hear their questions and comments in person. We also wanted them to see their kids play in today's scrimmage,” Evans said afterward. “I appreciate all of our parents for coming out and for every question and comment they shared. We are keeping the lines of communication open, and I encouraged all of them to reach out to me personally with their thoughts.”
The meeting came one day after the University of Maryland System Board of Regents announced that it will now lead the separate investigations into McNair’s death and into the culture of the football team, after recent media reports described staff members bullying and verbally abusing players.
Loh in June had launched an external review into the circumstances of McNair’s death, and he said last week that preliminary findings indicated that athletic training staff had failed to recognize the severity of his symptoms or to use standard treatments for heatstroke. He and Evans visited McNair’s parents on Tuesday to apologize, and Loh accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes that happened in his treatment.
Loh also announced last week a second probe into the allegations in the media about the team’s culture. Head Coach D.J. Durkin and members of the training staff were placed on administrative leave, and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court resigned.
The Board of Regents made its decision to manage both investigations after a four-hour meeting on Friday in which Loh briefed board members about McNair’s death, the football program and the actions that the university and Maryland Athletics have since taken to protect players’ safety.
System officials this week are expected to announce details of the board’s plans to manage the reviews.
“Our goal is to ensure that all system universities, including UMCP, are actively working to protect the health and safety of every student and to foster a supportive culture in which everyone can flourish,” said USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady.
Loh said the university welcomed the oversight of the Board of Regents.
“We must thoroughly investigate the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair and understand the allegations of the culture of our football program so that we can ensure the health and well-being of every one of our student-athletes,” he said. “We will continue to honor Jordan’s life, and we will work with our Board of Regents to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.”
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