- - Tuesday, October 30, 2018

When a special  commission looked into the death of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and the charges in an August ESPN report that coach D.J. Durkin’s program was “toxic,” the group eventually concluded that, while the team had a litany of problems, there was no evidence Durkin’s program was “toxic.”

They just didn’t look in the right place.

You want “toxic”? Look no further than the Maryland Board of Regents, which basically decided, with the ordered return of Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans, that the July death of Jordan McNair following his collapse two weeks earlier from heat exhaustion at a Maryland offseason workout was the cost of doing the business of Terrapins football.

“There will be no third chance for any of those involved to get this right,” regents chairman James T. Brady said at a press conference in Baltimore on Tuesday.

No third chance? You mean there is a do-over when it comes to the death of a football player?

You want evidence of “toxic”? Look at Brady and the other members of the board that governs the University of Maryland.

Brady is also a member of the board of directors of Dunbar Armored Inc. His vice chairman is Barry P. Gossett, retired chairman and CEO of Baltimore-based Acton Mobile Industries. Treasurer Gary Attman is president and CEO of FutureCare Health and Management Corp. Assistant treasurer Linda Gooden is an officer at Lockheed Martin. Secretary Dr. Michelle A. Gourdine is a physician. Assistant Secretary Robert D. Rauch, is a principal with a civil engineering and construction firm, Rauch, Inc., of Easton.

There’s also Joseph Bartenfelder, Maryland secretary of Agriculture; Katrina J. Dennis, Esq., partner in Baltimore office of law firm Saul Ewing LLP; Ellen Fish, Hamilton Bank’s executive vice president and chief lending officer; James Holzapfel, managing director-investments, Holzapel Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Hagerstown; D’Ana Johnson, partner with the firm of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata LLP; Robert Neall, secretary, Maryland Department of Health; Robert L. Pevenstein, member of the board of directors of the University of Maryland Medical System; Louis M. Pope, president and owner of Century 21 Trademark Realty, Inc.; Robert L. Wallace, member of the Board of the Greater Baltimore Committee and other organizations, and William T. “Bill” Wood, past chairman of the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation and currently on the board of directors of the University System of Maryland Foundation.

I listed these names in a Monday column so you would know the men and women who were charged with speaking for Jordan McNair and what kind of school the University of Maryland would be moving forward.

Instead, these gangsters spoke with their wallets and egos Tuesday, continuing to operate like a banana republic instead of a responsible, publicly accountable board, ordering the return of Durkin to the coaching sidelines — he had been on administrative leave since the ESPN report surfaced in August about the abuses that led to McNair’s death and the horrors inside the football program — and Evans as the face of the athletic department.

So you should remind yourself again of their names, in case some of them are your friends or business associates. You should know who your friends and associates are.

If you are a board member who tried to speak for McNair and instead was silenced, you should resign and speak up. I’m not sure how you could continue to serve otherwise and look at yourself in the mirror.

Reasonable people speculated that there was no chance that the football program could move forward with Durkin, or the athletic department with Evans, who had been just named athletic director after serving in an interim role following the departure of Kevin Anderson. The only one who appeared to possibly be a survivor of this disgrace might have been school President Wallace Loh.

Turns out Loh is the only one being forced out.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Loh’s announcement that he will be leaving effective in June was at the order of board members, who also reportedly told Loh, who, to give him credit, saw no way that the program could continue with Durkin at the helm, that either he reinstate Durkin or else they would put someone in his job who would carry out their orders.

That’s what gangsters do.

That’s what this group of gangsters did when they ramrodded through Maryland’s move from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big 10 six years ago, doing so behind closed doors, freezing out any dissent or consideration of proposals for the school to stay in the ACC — a decision-making process that broke state law.

That’s what gangsters do.

You could make the case that was when the wheels were set in motion for the circumstances that led to the death of McNair, who was 13 years old at that time. That was when the boosters and board members decided they were determined to take that Big 10 money, which in turn led to a philosophical change that brought in Durkin, who came directly from the Big 10 as defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan. That, in turn, led to the arrival of Durkin’s lieutenant and confidant, strength coach Rick Court, who has already left and been paid off $315,000, according to Yahoo Sports, for his despicable role in the death of McNair and the abuses he inflicted on young men allegedly under the care and protection of Durkin.

And it was that Big 10 money that the gangsters see disappearing that likely contributed to their decision to keep Durkin and Evans, since dismissing them would likely cost about $10 million in payoffs. That doesn’t even take into account the money they will likely have to pay the McNair family, whose powerful lawyer, Billy Murphy, said in August that Durkin “should be fired immediately. His conduct and the conduct of the coaches was reprehensible.” He charged that Durkin “fostered a horrible culture” and wondered “how are you going to have a viable football program as long as it is possible for him to become coach again?”

The Maryland football players who, according to ESPN, walked out of a team meeting Tuesday afternoon when they learned Durkin was returning, have the same questions.

Nobody, though, is going to tell this board what to do.

Nobody tells gangsters what to do.

You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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