Falcons Find Themselves In A Pickle With Guest-Coaching Stint By DJ Durkin, Fired At Maryland After Player’s Death

Controversy Heats Up With Guest Coach Appearance Writing anything related to my alma mater – the University of Maryland – makes me nostalgic. I was so much younger then,...

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Controversy Heats Up With Guest Coach Appearance

Writing anything related to my alma mater – the University of Maryland – makes me nostalgic. I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now. That’s enough to make me morose, but there’s more. Especially in terms of sports (though I do thank you for the degree – it really helped). Oh, success, where is thy sting?

Morose? I think of Len Bias’ death. And all that followed with his family and the men’s basketball program’s decline. Gah. And then I perk up, remembering the redemption under Gary Williams. And we’ve had our moments in many areas – soccer, women’s field hockey and basketball, men’s and women’s lacrosse.

But I am conflicted when it comes to DJ Durkin, dismissed in 2018 as the Terrapins’ football coach and now serving as a training camp assistant with the Atlanta Falcons.

I don’t know the guy. I’ve got nothing personal against him. It’s all professional. A “student-athlete” – hey, that’s what the NCAA likes to call them – died after an off-season workout that brought on heatstroke. An investigation spoke of a culture of abuse by staff. The silence they demanded created the toxic atmosphere that contributed to the death of a 19-year-old, Jordan McNair, struggling with conditioning drills in warm conditions on a May afternoon.

Not going to relitigate all of this here. Look it up.

I will just say this: DJ Durkin knew or should have known what was going on. That some of his coaches made themselves the enemy of common sense without him knowing – if that’s plausible – may be the worst defense of all. But he is on this side of the turf and McNair is not.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn defended Durkin, who is only with the club in Flowery Branch, Georgia, for a 10-day stretch. People stick up for their friends. That’s admirable, at times. Quinn and Durkin shared time on the University of Florida staff. They go back nearly a decade. And Quinn spoke of Durkin’s football expertise, specifically on defense, as a reason to have him around. He also said: “I know what his character is.”

So, everyone in the fraternity deserves a break – is that the message? Is it time to “move on?”

Me? I remember a dead kid. He won’t get a second chance. Sorry, forgiveness is on backorder here.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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