Maryland football coach DJ Durkin placed on leave after report of ‘toxic culture’

The coach of the Universtiy of Maryland’s football team was placed on leave Saturday while the school reviews allegations of “unacceptable behavior” following the June death of a player who was hospitalized after a team workout.

The announcement about Coach DJ Durkin came from Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, one day after an ESPN story about a “toxic culture” in which Durkin and conditioning coach Rick Court allegedly verbally abused and humiliated players.

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

The school is also investigating the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, 19, who was hospitalized May 29 and died June 13.

jordan mcnair

Jordan McNair, 19, died in June, reportedly from heatstroke after suffering from “extreme exhaustion” after a workout in May, reports said. (University of Maryland Athletics)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he supports the university’s decision to place Durkin on 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 D.J. Durkin, and expect that the investigation into the program will be wide-ranging and thorough,” Hogan said in a statement.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan speaks at the

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

“We must have complete confidence that our student athletes are treated with dignity and respect and that they are supervised and coached responsibly,” he said.

Ben Jealous, a candidate for Maryland governor, is also calling for the suspensions of Durkin and Evans, until an investigation into McNair’s death has been finished.

Jealous, a Democrat and former NAACP head, said Durkin and Evans “are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of our student-athletes.”

The ESPN story published Friday quoted unidentified sources saying Court and Durkin created a toxic culture within the Big Ten conference program.

The report said McNair had “showed signs of extreme exhaustion” before he died of heatstroke suffered during the May workout.

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

Durkin wrote in a letter to the Baltimore Sun that the program was “cooperating fully” with investigators.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amy Lieu