Investigators talking to Maryland players, coaches about death, culture

September 1, 2018, 1:26 PM

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland players and coaches have begun speaking with investigators this week from two separate groups looking into different circumstances surrounding the June 13 death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair from heatstroke.

The investigators represented Walters Inc. and a separate eight-person committee appointed by the University System of Maryland board of regents.

The USM board of regents will hold a special meeting via conference call at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday for the board "to receive updates on actions taken since its August 17 decision to assume control of the two separate investigations" related to the death of McNair and to "the culture of the football program" at Maryland.

The meeting is expected to be informational only, according to a release, and the board will vote publicly on whether to reconvene its meeting in closed session, which is likely.

Interim coach Matt Canada said all of the assistant coaches who were present at the May 29 workout when McNair suffered heatstroke were interviewed Monday.

"As a staff, we all feel it was important to have an honest and productive conversation," Canada said. "I know the commission is working hard to gain all the information they need to meet their charge."

The second investigation, which was initiated by university president Wallace D. Loh before the board assumed control of it, is composed of: Frederick M. Azar, M.D., Bonnie Bernstein, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., C. Thomas McMillen, Doug Williams, retired U.S. District Court judges Ben Legg and Alex Williams, and former federal prosecutor Charlie Scheeler.

Canada spoke to reporters Tuesday in his weekly news conference, intended to preview the Terps' season opener against Texas at FedEx Field on Saturday, but the bulk of questions he faced still surrounded McNair's death.

Head coach DJ Durkin was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 11 after an ESPN report that detailed allegations of a toxic culture within the football program that was based on fear and intimidation.

Canada said he is keeping any conversations with Durkin "between he and I."

Maryland ended fall camp on Saturday, and classes began Monday. Canada talked about the delicate balance of emotions between dealing with what happened to McNair and the typical preparations that come with starting the season and returning to class.

"We've been dealing with this for a couple of months," Canada said. "It's been a very up and down situation. We deal with grief differently. Every player does, every person does, every family does. We're never going to be done with that. It's not like it's ever going to go away. We're not asking it to go away.

"When our players play, they want to play well," he said. "They want to play well for each other, they want to play well for Jordan. It's important to them. It's always there ... but we're doing our jobs."

The full report from Walters Inc. is expected by Sept. 15 and will be made public, but there is no clear timetable for the conclusion of the second investigation.

"Once the commission has completed its work, the Board of Regents will make the decisions necessary to safeguard and support our students, both at College Park and at campuses across the state," board chair James T. Brady said in a prepared statement on Friday. "Ultimately, we hope the commission's findings, which will be made public for everyone to review, can also help guide other universities and systems across the country."