Former University of Maryland football coach DJ Durkin has been fired in the ongoing aftermath of football player Jordan McNair’s death — just one day after being reinstated from administrative leave.
“This is not at all a reflection of my opinion of Coach Durkin as a person,” Wallace D. Loh, the university president, said in a statement on Wednesday. “However, a departure is in the best interest of the University, and this afternoon Coach Durkin was informed that the University will part ways.”
The day before, Loh announced in a statement that he would resign in June and that the Board of Regents had “recommended that Head Coach DJ Durkin will return from administrative leave to resume his regular coaching duties.”
Durkin had been on paid leave since Aug. 11, according to ESPN.
Loh said that he decided to fire Durkin after all after talking to “stakeholders.” The decision to keep Durkin had prompted intense backlash, ESPN reported.
“Since returning to campus after yesterday’s press conference, I have met with the leadership of the Student Government Association speaking on behalf of numerous student organizations; the Senate Executive Committee; Deans; department chairs; and campus leadership,” Loh wrote in Wednesday’s statement. “The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus.”
“This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire University,” Loh added. “I will devote the remaining months of my presidency to advancing the needed reforms in our Athletic Department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”
McNair died on June 13, two weeks after he collapsed during a workout on May 29. At the hospital, McNair received a liver transplant and was “fighting for his life,” according to a GoFundMe for his family.
In August, Loh announced that an external investigation found that McNair did not receive proper medical care as he struggled to breathe during his 110-yard sprints.
“These were mistakes on the part of some of the athletic training staff,” Loh said in a statement at the time. “The University accepts legal and moral responsibility for these mistakes.”
After the initial announcement that Durkin would return, McNair’s family expressed outrage. “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and somebody spit in my face,” McNair’s father Marty told CBS.
Now that Durkin has been fired, “We feel gratified that some justice has been done, that Dr. Loh took it upon himself to do the right thing,” McNair’s father told SportsCenter.
Jordan McNair’s roommate Johnny Jordan added that the firing “was the right decision for the university and football program moving forward.”
“I’m not really playing for a head coach,” Jordan noted. “I’m playing for the guy upstairs, who we dedicated this season to, I’ve dedicated my career and life to.”
Loh did not consult the Board of Regents when he decided to fire Durkin, according to ESPN. Durkin was reportedly “surprised” when he lost his job, which Matt Canada will fill as the interim coach.