SNIDER: Is Maryland really ready to make massive changes?

Rick Snider
August 14, 2018 - 4:17 pm
Wallace_Loh

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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There's one simple question to reviewing Maryland president Wallace Loh's concession that medical staffers misdiagnosed football player Jordan McNair's heat stroke during a workout which led to his death – why did it take an ESPN report and heavy media pressure two months later to bring a response?

No one doubts Loh is sorry over a player's death or his resolve to improve medical response to avoid future deaths. Certainly, Loh will fully investigate allegations of bullying and poor behavior by football coaches against players.

But Loh's response rings a little hollow. If Loh made these remarks before media reports, the sincerity would be more believable. But, he didn't, and that taints anything Loh and athletic director Damon Evans said on Tuesday in a press conference.

Strength and conditioning coach Rick Court is gone after reports of an abusive culture. The mistakes by the team's medical staff, including not even taking the player's temperature or using cold-water immersion, makes one wonder what type of credentials they offered when getting the job.

Loh's admission of mistakes lessens chances of a messy lawsuit that further stains the university's image. And make no mistake, that's a big deal for Loh, because corporate and alumni money is in play here. McNair's family and the university are now desperately trying to settle any lawsuits and get this scandal off the front pages.

Loh has assembled a credible panel to examine both McNair's death and charges of a program gone insane, with a report expected on Sept. 15. Coach D.J. Durkin must remain on administrative leave to fulfill due process requirements needed to fairly force his dismissal, should allegations be true. Otherwise, Durkin could sue over unfair treatment. Maryland wants this to end cleanly, but also shouldn't write a large check to pay off Durkin. This is his mess. He deserves nothing but scorn.

The NCAA should also invoke a show-cause order on Durkin, for at least five years, to any school seeking to hire him. Don't let Durkin show up on a buddy's staff and forget about this. Not given a player's death.

But let's keep going. The entire staff needs to go, just like other schools with scandals. It is a small world inside that football building. Everybody knows everything, and if they took a blind approach to those coaches who abused players, then shame on them. They're supposed to protect students, not ignore trouble signs.

Frankly, Evans is trying to sidestep his involvement, even though he was the administration's overseer of the football program before being elevated to athletic director. He saw nothing? Then he wasn't looking very hard. Sorry, Evans is caught up in the tidal wave of change here.

Finally, the university board of regents should ask for Loh's retirement. While he has greatly improved the university's academic reputation, Loh is very involved in athletics. He can't claim ignorance, either.

Maryland can talk about more water breaks and cooling stations at football practices. Those are the easy band-aids. It takes great strength to do what's right, and anything less is a disgrace.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks