University Of Maryland Mourns Loss Of Jordan McNair
You can find the University of Maryland easily on a map. It lies at the intersection of travesty and tragedy.
The death of one of its football players, Jordan McNair, of heatstroke, was the tragedy. Why it happened, how it happened and how slowly it got investigated is the travesty.
McNair, who was 19, was physical overcome during practice on a day with temperatures in the 80s, yet was dragged and carried through sprints by teammates so that he could finish … at the order of the coaching staff. He reportedly had a seizure, though Maryland would not confirm it. Billy Murphy, the McNair family’s attorney, said McNair had a body temperature of 106 degrees when he was admitted to Washington Adventist Hospital on May 29. He died two weeks later.
On Tuesday, university President Wallace D. Loh said the school “accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes” of the athletic training staff; athletic director Damon Evans said there was a failure to follow certain medical protocols “that was not consistent with best practices.”
Maryland also reached a settlement with Rick Court, the assistant athletic director for sports performance, who had been blamed by anonymous athletes in an ESPN story for creating a toxic culture where players were shamed for failure to complete drills or maintain their targeted weights. Sounds a little like Sgt. Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket,” doesn’t it?
The head coach, D.J. Durkin, is on paid administrative leave, as are other staff members.
This university was left reeling in 1986 by the death of basketball star Len Bias. It was not responsible for his use of cocaine after his selection in the NBA draft, but the surrounding fury ultimately cost coach Lefty Driesell his job and buried the program for years. And that had been a successful program. The football team, stomped and pounded by its betters in the Big Ten, is not.
There’s an old mock proverb: The beatings will continue until morale improves. You get the picture. The beatings always continue and morale never improves.
Part of this is football culture – it’s a tough, nasty sport, and those who play it will tell you that it’s not for normal people. People push through pain and injuries at great risk of further damage simply because that’s what football players do.
Jordan McNair chose to play football. He didn’t choose to die, nor did he deserve to. Adult supervision is required. Or tragedy will surely meet travesty.
(Note: This writer is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park).
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