The University of Maryland will launch an external investigation to investigate the culture within a football program being handled for abuse reportedly received by athletes from players.
The environment within the program and reports of bullying and denigrating have already prompted the school to leave at least four employees on vacation, including DJ Durkin, the contested third football coach.
In a letter to the curators, faculty, students and alumni on Saturday night, Wallace Loh, the school president, said he was "deeply disturbed by media reports of verbally abusive and intimidating behavior by Maryland football coaches and staff towards our student athletes on the team."
Loh said he intends to hire an outside expert "to do a thorough review of our coaching practices in the football program, with the aim that these practices reflect the core values of our university – not undermine it."
The review would be the second external investigation related to the football program. The school has already signed a contract with Walters, Inc., a sports training consultancy, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of footballer Jordan McNair, who collapsed on heat on May 29, and died 15 days later. This review is not expected to be completed before 15 September. While Walters's research focuses on security policies and procedures, the second investigation would focus specifically on the culture within the school football program.
"Our responsibility as a teacher is to inspire and empower students to do their best and push the boundaries of their potential, in the classroom and / or on the sports field," Loh said in his letter. "To humiliate and humiliate a student is not only bad teaching and coaching, but also a misuse of the authority of a teacher and coach."
Loh said he instructed sports director Damon Evans "to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and success of our students." Evans decided to send Durkin on administrative leave this past Friday, a drastic measure scheduled to take place just three weeks before the Terps open their season.
Durkin is in the third year of a five-year contract and oversees a program reported to have been violent – "a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation," according to a longer ESPN report.
Late-Friday reports from The Washington Post and ESPN report on several instances of players who have demeaning behavior from trainers or co-workers. A former player told the post about a lineman trying to lose weight who was humiliated when he was forced to eat chocolate bars while another player put the injured player's locker in the showers and distanced him from the team.
"We're kinda scared every day what could happen," said the former player. "It was kind of crazy."
The team continued to prepare for the new season on Sunday under the interim coach Matt Canada, who was hired as Durkin's offensive coordinator in January.
"The University of Maryland is committed to a football program that is safe and humane, and in which our student athletes succeed in their academic and sporting activities," Loh said.
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