One Year Later, UMD Still Has McNair Questions To Answer | WYPR

One Year Later, UMD Still Has McNair Questions To Answer

Jun 17, 2019

It’s been a little over a year since Jordan McNair collapsed on a University of Maryland football practice field and died.

In most respects, it appears that Maryland officials have taken McNair’s death to heart and have learned significant lessons from it.

In a press conference last August, University President Wallace Loh pledged full accountability and transparency. In many ways, the school has fulfilled those promises.

The coach who supervised the program is gone and a number of substantive changes in how things work in the football program and the athletic department have taken place.

Also, the school has, largely, pulled back the curtain on how things are done.

But there are still important areas where it seems that Maryland hasn’t gotten it.

For one, it’s laughable that Loh and athletic director Damon Evans are still employed.

If D.J. Durkin, the head coach, and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court were deemed to have fostered a culture so toxic to warrant their firing, how do Evans, who was Durkin’s direct supervisor, and Loh, who is Evans’ boss, escape culpability?

After all, next to men’s basketball, football is the most visible sport on campus, and before last summer, Durkin was probably better known than Loh and certainly more so than Evans. Getting the right person for that post is essential and Loh and Evans failed miserably at that task.

And while Loh vowed transparency, The Washington Post alleges that the school waited seven months to produce emails that were part of the public record.

The school even attempted to charge the newspaper nearly $6,000 for the emails before negotiating the fee down to under $2,000.

In addition, Maryland officials have withheld 69 pages of Evans’ emails, according to the Post, effectively invoking the academic version of executive privilege.

Maryland’s reluctance to share information is the norm in college athletics, not an anomaly.

Indeed, public universities in a number of states have a form of government permission to decline to provide certain documents to the public or to journalists, or to slow their release.

Three Florida schools have made an end run around the state’s open records law by creating side organizations to supervise athletic departments.

These private nonprofit organizations are not subject to the requirements to produce emails, text messages and internal financial documents to the press or the public.

That kind of arrangement makes it easy for those schools, Florida, Central Florida and Florida State, to keep potentially damaging or embarrassing material out of public scrutiny.

Florida State’s new arrangement, whereby the athletic department will come under the aegis of something called Seminole Boosters, will not be used for secrecy.

So says university President John Thrasher who told The Washington Post recently “The idea has never been to be not transparent." 

One Florida university president’s mangling of the language might be amusing. The trend of college athletic officials to try to hide embarrassing information is no laughing matter and could have dire consequences.

And that’s how I see it for this week.