- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland interim coach Matt Canada answered three “football questions” about the Terrapins’ loss to Iowa last week and the upcoming game against Illinois before the topic turned, as it has for weeks, to the fate of D.J. Durkin.

With no word for weeks on the future of his suspended boss, the program’s head coach, Canada was asked about keeping the team focused on football. He has had to face questions like that all season.

“The opportunities to play are so small in our game,” Canada said. “You get 12 guaranteed chances to play games. That’s it. So to spend time on anything else would be a disservice to them and how hard they’ve worked and the opportunities they have to play. I think they’re focused on each other. Proud of them for that.”



As Canada held his weekly press conference Tuesday in College Park, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents met in closed session in Baltimore to continue deliberating the findings of their investigation into Durkin and the culture of “fear and intimidation” that critics say led to the heat-stroke death of player Jordan McNair earlier this year.

The university system said in a press release it “expects to publicly share findings from the independent commission investigation and to announce any initial decisions and/or recommendations from the board” within a week of the regents’ Tuesday meeting.

The regents are weighing a report, delivered Friday at their scheduled meeting, from an eight-person investigatory commission that includes Washington Redskins executive Doug Williams, former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich; sports journalist and Maryland alumna Bonnie Bernstein and two retired federal judges, among others.

The regents went into closed session Friday after accepting the commission’s report and decided to hold a special meeting Tuesday to continue discussions.
University of Maryland president Wallace D. Loh announced the creation of that commission in August, when it was only going to be four members, but the board of regents soon voted to take authority over the commission out of Loh’s hands. The Washington Post also reported this week that the board has “refused” to share the commission’s findings with Loh.

It could spell trouble for the embattled university president, who has served in that position since 2010. Loh said in August the university takes “legal and moral responsibility” for the training staff’s mistakes the day McNair collapsed during a football practice. McNair was hospitalized and died two weeks later.

But the commission’s report is separate from the investigation into the specific events leading to McNair’s death — that report was released in full in September. This investigation is expected to address allegations of a toxic culture under Durkin which were first reported by ESPN in August.

The commission could recommend the university fire Durkin and perhaps athletic director Damon Evans. Some parents of Maryland players have come out in support of Durkin in anonymous comments to the media, but more parents have said they want to see him out.

It creates a tricky environment for the 4-3 Terrapins and their temporary leader. All season, Canada has been careful to correct people who call him Maryland’s head coach, insisting he is the offensive coordinator.
Canada said Tuesday the staff does not try to make players avoid news coverage of the scandal.

“There’s no way to keep anything out in our world right now,” Canada said. “We’re not gonna tell them what to read. But I think they’ve done a better job than anybody else of sticking together and focusing on what they’re doing, focusing on football, focusing on each other, focusing on mourning the loss of a teammate.”

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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