COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland’s student government association has organized a rally Thursday to protest the reinstatement of football coach DJ Durkin and to demand justice for Jordan McNair, the Maryland offensive linemen who died June 13 from heatstroke he suffered after a May 29 team workout.
Durkin returned to work Tuesday after the University System of Maryland’s board of regents recommended his reinstatement after reviewing an investigative report into the culture of Durkin’s program. The third-year coach had been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 11.
Jonathan Allen, Maryland’s student body president, told ESPN that students are “outraged” by the board’s decision. Allen will introduce emergency legislation at a student government association meeting Wednesday night that will call for university president Wallace Loh to fire Durkin. Sources told ESPN that Loh, who announced Tuesday that he will retire in June, only brought back Durkin after the board of regents threatened to fire the president if he didn’t reinstate the coach.
“People are appalled at this,” Allen said. “When I spoke to stakeholders — media, alums, donors — over the last few months, as this has been transpiring, they all said there’s no way Durkin comes back from this. And yet he’s returning and the president is the one that’s leaving?
“When the system fails, the next obvious step is a grassroots push, being vocal and showing the outrage and sentiments students have had with these decisions.”
Allen, who hopes to meet with Loh later Wednesday to understand his viewpoint on the decision, said board of regents chair James Brady is primarily at fault for the decisions to reinstate Durkin and athletics director Damon Evans.
“It could not have worked out better for chairman Brady,” said Allen, a senior from Florida majoring in government and politics. “He didn’t need to buy out Coach Durkin’s multi-million contract. He did not need to buy out Damon Evans’ contract, did not need to fire a president and potentially have litigation if President Loh deemed there wasn’t sufficient cause, bought out [former Maryland football strength coach] Rick Court, who was the root of many concerns, for $315,000.
“The only person who paid, as the McNair family’s representative said, was Jordan, and that was with his life. That’s why we’re outraged.”
Allen reached out to McNair’s parents, Marty McNair and Tonya Wilson, through their attorneys, and hopes they can attend Thursday’s rally.
The student government association announced the rally Tuesday night on Facebook, and as of late Wednesday morning, more than 1,000 people had either confirmed they will be attending the rally or expressed interest. Many student groups have co-sponsored the event, including the college Democrats, college Republicans, the black student union and Maryland’s NAACP chapter.
Allen said the initial time of the rally, 3:30 p.m. outside McKeldin Library, could be adjusted because it conflicts with Maryland football practice and he wants players to be able to attend. He has reached out to several players on the team.
“Ultimately, this is about them,” Allen said. “If they want to be present, we should be doing what we can to ensure that they’re there, and that we’re supporting them however we can.”
Allen also will propose Wednesday night a dramatic decrease in Maryland’s mandatory student fees that go to the athletic department. Each Maryland student pays $406 per year to Terrapins athletics.
“Students have been saying since the summer, ‘How am I going to be forced to financially support an athletics department that does not share the same values as me?'” Allen said.
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