Maryland places football head coach and strength coach on leave

Athletic director Damon Evans spoke with the team Saturday morning.

The Maryland strength
Maryland placed both the head coach and the head of the football team's strength and conditioning staff on paid leave. –Katherine Frey / Washington Post

Maryland placed the head of the football team’s strength and conditioning staff on paid leave while it investigates claims he verbally abused and humiliated players, a person briefed on the situation said Saturday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Maryland had not announced the decision regarding Rick Court. The person said athletic director Damon Evans spoke with the football team Saturday morning and that head coach DJ Durkin was still leading the program. The football team practiced with Durkin.

Maryland has also placed two athletic training staffers it did not identify on leave as it investigates the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The 19-year-old McNair was hospitalized on May 29 after a team workout and died on June 13. Dr. Rod Walters, a former collegiate athletic trainer, has been hired by Maryland to investigate the circumstances of McNair’s death. A report is expected by Sept. 15. McNair’s parents are being represented by Baltimore attorney Bill Murphy, whose firm is also investigating.

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ESPN reported that head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson and director of athletic training Steve Nordwall were placed on leave by Maryland.

An ESPN story Friday quoted unidentified players, former players and former members of Durkin’s staff, who contended Court and Durkin created a toxic culture within the program.

Durkin is starting his third season at Maryland. The 40-year-old former Michigan defensive coordinator is 11-15 in two seasons after receiving a five-year, contract worth $12.5 million in December 2015. The Baltimore Sun reported that Durkin sent a letter to parents of the Maryland players before the ESPN story was published. Durkin said in the letter that he would be available to address any of the parents’ concerns.

“Our priority every day is the safety along with the academic, personal and athletic development of your sons,” the letter said.

Durkin brought Court to Maryland to lead the strength and conditioning staff in 2016. Court had been the head strength coach at Mississippi State since 2014 under coach Dan Mullen. Court also worked with Durkin at Bowling Green in 2005 and ’06, when Durkin was an assistant.

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AP update:

Evans says coach DJ Durkin is being placed on leave while the school reviews allegations of “unacceptable behavior by members of our football staff.”

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The move comes a day after an ESPN story that quoted unidentified players, former players and former Durkin staff members accusing Durkin and Court of verbally abusing and humiliating players.

Earlier Saturday, a person who had been briefed on the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Court had been placed on leave by the school.

The school already is investigating the death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who was hospitalized after a team workout on May 29 and died on June 13.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he supports the University of Maryland’s decision to place football coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave:

“In light of deeply troubling reports about the University of Maryland football program’s training practices and general culture, I support the university’s decision to suspend Coach DJ Durkin, and expect that the investigation into the program will be wide-ranging and thorough,” Hogan said in a statement. “We must have complete confidence that our student athletes are treated with dignity and respect and that they are supervised and coached responsibly.

“If the investigation confirms these reports, then strong and permanent corrective actions should be taken immediately.”