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Regents discuss Maryland football in closed meeting

Maryland players stretch at practice in front of a tent used for cooling down.

MATT MCCLAIN/THE WASHINGTON POST

By ROMAN STUBBS AND RICK MAESE | The Washington Post | Published: October 23, 2018

BALTIMORE — The University System of Maryland Board of Regents convened Tuesday morning for a special meeting and promptly voted to go into a closed session, where they are expected to spend much of the day discussing the future of the Maryland football program and dig into a recently completed report by an independent commission that sought to examine the culture of the program.

Five commission members were present at the board's meeting in Baltimore: Redskins Senior Vice President Doug Williams; former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich; journalist Bonnie Bernstein; Baltimore attorney Charles Scheeler; and Ben Legg, a retired federal judge. Each of the regents and commission members were outfitted with a thick binder containing the commission's report. The other three members who spent the past eight weeks investigating the program were teleconferencing in to the board's meeting.

No one from the football program or the College Park administration was present at the meeting.

The regents received the roughly 200-page report on Friday, but the board has refused to share a copy with university President Wallace Loh, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Loh originally formed the commission with three members in August, but days later, the board took over control of the investigation and added five members to the group.

The commission wrapped up its work last week and made a PowerPoint presentation to the regents at the board's regularly scheduled meeting Friday. The 17 regents also received a detailed written report from the commission.

The board reconvened Tuesday solely to discuss the commission's findings and plot a course for the future. The group voted to close the session shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday, and was not planning to make any public announcements afterward. One member of the commission was expected to be on hand to answer any questions, but the bulk of the meeting was expected to be focused on what's next for the football program. Among the most pressing decisions that need to be made: whether to retain DJ Durkin, the head football coach who has been on administrative leave since Aug. 11.

Technically, such personnel decisions are made in College Park, but because Loh and his staff haven't been allowed to see the report, school officials have been unable to plot any course of action.

The board of regents, which oversees the state's 12 public universities, is expected to take some sort of action based on the results of three investigations into Maryland football: the commission's look into the culture of the program; a review conducted by an athletic training consulting firm into the events that led to the June death of 19-year old football player Jordan McNair; and a related probe by the state attorney general's office.

While the board has had the commission report since Friday afternoon, the regents and commission members who've seen it have been tight-lipped about the investigation's findings. The university system intends to make public the commission's findings and announce any decisions related to Maryland football within seven days of Tuesday's meeting, though some people close to the board think there could be action by the end of the week.

"We have promised to release that report in a really short period of time and to make appropriate decisions as result of that report," Chancellor Robert Caret told the regents at Friday's meeting. "But we wanted to give the board a few days to review the report . . . to determine what to do next."

While the board was briefed on the commission findings, Loh has yet to receive an update since the group concluded its review, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. A school spokeswoman declined to comment Monday.

Loh's role as head of the state's flagship university could be among the items that regents discuss Tuesday. They also could take a closer look at the school's athletic director, Damon Evans, and the athletic training staff that was charged with treating McNair during a May 29 team workout. The report by the consulting firm concluded that many mistakes were made by school employees, and McNair was never properly diagnosed or treated for exertional heatstroke.

The commission's findings are expected to focus more on the atmosphere in the football program and the treatment that players received from the coaching staff, led by Durkin. While the third-year coach still has the support of many players and parents, others who've played under him at Maryland have detailed several incidents they characterized as abuse and bullying.

On Aug. 11, the same night the school placed Durkin on administrative leave and one day after ESPN published a report levying many allegations of abuse against the Maryland football staff, Loh announced the school would retain an external expert "to undertake a comprehensive examination of our coaching practices in the football program, with the goal that these practices reflect - not subvert - the core values of our University."

Since then, the school has assisted the commission by facilitating contact with players, parents and staff, inviting the commission to a recent parents' meeting and organizing a team meeting at the request of the commission so athletes could complete an online survey.

Marty McNair and Tonya Wilson, the parents of Jordan McNair, are presented a framed jersey during a ceremony at the McDonogh School in September 2018.
TONI L. SANDYS/THE WASHINGTON POST

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