The University of Maryland has fired football coach DJ Durkin one day after his reinstatement, the school announced Wednesday evening.
In a statement, president Wallace D. Loh said, “Yesterday, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents announced numerous recommendations, including employment decisions about specific personnel on our campus. I accepted the Board’s recommendations. At the same time, I announced my retirement as president in June 2019.
“Since returning to campus after yesterday’s press conference, I have met with the leadership of the Student Government Association speaking on behalf of numerous student organizations; the Senate Executive Committee; Deans; department chairs; and campus leadership. The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus.
“The chair of the Board of Regents has publicly acknowledged that I had previously raised serious concerns about Coach Durkin’s return. This is not at all a reflection of my opinion of Coach Durkin as a person. However, a departure is in the best interest of the University, and this afternoon Coach Durkin was informed that the University will part ways.
“This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire University. I will devote the remaining months of my presidency to advancing the needed reforms in our Athletic Department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”
Loh acted alone in deciding to fire Durkin, a source told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, not consulting the board of regents. Loh informed athletic director Damon Evans of his decision and Evans fired Durkin. Durkin was “surprised” by the school’s decision, the source said.
A Maryland player told ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren that Evans informed the team Durkin was fired in a team meeting. The player said no one asked any questions.
The team was told that Matt Canada will remain the interim coach. Maryland is 5-3 heading into Saturday’s home game against Michigan State.
Through a spokesman, the board of regents said it will not be offering comments Wednesday night.
The board of regents still has the authority to fire Loh. But Loh, who has already announced he will be stepping down in June, has strong support from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and other influential politicians around the state, many of whom criticized the board in recent days.
Durkin, on paid administrative leave since Aug. 11, had been reinstated Tuesday, following two separate investigations into the football program and five meetings and calls between the 17-member board of regents following the June 13 death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair from a heatstroke he suffered at a May 29 workout.
“We feel gratified that some justice has been done, that Dr. Loh took it upon himself to do the right thing,” Marty McNair, Jordan’s father, told SportsCenter on Wednesday night.
Maryland offensive lineman Johnny Jordan, roomate of Jordan McNair, who died in June, says firing DJ Durkin was the right decision.
Sources told Rittenberg the decision “brought relief” to many student-athletes and even staff members within the Maryland football program.
“They just want to get back to playing football,” a source said.
Jordan McNair’s roommate, Johnny Jordan, said it “was the right decision for the university and football program moving forward.”
“I’m not really playing for a head coach,” Jordan said. “I’m playing for the guy upstairs, who we dedicated this season to, I’ve dedicated my career and life to.”
The decision to reinstate Durkin had been met with outrage and protests by students, politicians, McNair’s family members and even some of the players themselves.
Ellis McKennie, an offensive lineman for the Terrapins and one of McNair’s closest friends, tweeted his displeasure with Durkin’s reinstatement on Tuesday night:
“Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate. Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right.”
McKennie followed up with a tweet Wednesday night after Durkin’s firing was announced, as did teammate Tre Watson.
ITS NEVER THE WRONG TIME TO DO WHATS RIGHT!
— Ellis McKennie (@emck_cubed97) October 31, 2018
Pressure busts pipes doesn’t it??
— Tre Watson (@MDQue_33) October 31, 2018
Loh’s action was immediately met with approval by Maryland Congressman Anthony G. Brown.
“Dr. Loh’s firing of Coach Durkin is the right decision and the decision that had to be made if the UMD community was going to ever move forward,” Brown said.
Durkin went 10-15 in his two seasons as coach of the Terrapins, including a loss in the Quick Lane Bowl in 2016. He was hired by Maryland to succeed Randy Edsall in December 2015 after serving as defensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Prior to that, he was on the staff at Florida under Will Muschamp and Urban Meyer, who gave Durkin his first coaching job at Bowling Green, Durkin’s alma mater.
Durkin has approximately $8.5 million left on his deal. Per his contract, if Maryland does not fire him for cause — which the university is not doing, according to a spokesperson — he is owed 65 percent of the total, which is $5.53 million.
Half of the $5.53 million will be paid out in the first 60 days after his termination (by Dec. 31), and the rest will be paid on a monthly basis.
ESPN’s Heather Dinich and Darren Rovell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.