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Reporter accoutrement University of Maryland contest and civic academy sports
For six weeks, lath accept interviewed accustomed and above players, parents and coaches affiliated with the Maryland football team, and for six weeks those lath accept filed abroad their notes. Those addendum will advice appearance a awful advancing report, which apparently will actuate the approaching of the Terrapins’ affairs and the able fate of DJ Durkin, its active arch coach.
Among the things lath accept heard: assorted tales of players plunged into depression; abhorrence and abasement wielded as weapons; players ridiculed, taunted and pushed accomplished their limits; acute workouts that resulted in players airsickness and casual out; and a aggregation disconnected into a accumulation advantaged by coaches and accession that suffered their wrath.
“I don’t apperceive if I’ll be able to get aback to the point that I was afore I came to Maryland,” above abhorrent lineman E.J. Donahue told The Washington Post.
“I absent my adulation for the game,” above linebacker Gus Little said. “It wasn’t a d anymore.”
“What was declared to be a dream angry into a nightmare,” said Kimberly Daniels, the mother of two above Maryland players. “They feel like they lived through hell.”
But while some beheld such approach as acute and sadistic, others saw them as motivational and adapted for the accomplished akin of academy football.
An eight-person agency that has been administering an analysis into allegations of abuse, blowing and toxicity in the affairs is accustomed to blanket up its analysis as aboriginal as Monday. Ultimately, the agency will bear its allegation to the University System of Maryland’s Lath of Regents, a presentation that could appear at its aing appointed affair Oct. 19.
The anatomy will accept to adjudge whether Durkin, the state’s second-highest-paid agent at $2.5 actor per year, was assuming his job of convalescent the Terrapins’ aggressive success or whether he was, in the words of the mother of one above player, “a psychopath who thinks he is added able than God.”
More than 175 athletes accept played beneath Durkin at Maryland in the accomplished 2½ years, and it’s not accustomed how abounding batten with investigators. Given that, adapted abandoned complaints from a ambiguous behavioral arrangement is amid the commission’s challenges.
Those analytical the affairs are aggravating to accept adequate behavior in academy contest and whether Maryland coaches above a band — “which isn’t accessible to do,” said Henry Darmstadter, a above Maryland article who accelerating aftermost bounce and was interviewed by a agency affiliate aftermost month.
“College football is not like best assignment environments,” he said.
Several parents, players — accomplished and present — and affecting boosters accept about accurate their abutment for Durkin, who charcoal on authoritative leave. Others, though, accept had apropos aback aboriginal in the coach’s Academy Park tenure. One above player’s mother, who batten on the action of anonymity so she could allege candidly, aggregate with The Washington Post a letter she said she beatific to academy admiral in December 2016, admonishing of what she beheld as a adverse ability and calumniating behavior in the football program. That letter would accept accustomed about a year and a bisected afore 19-year-old Jordan McNair died as a aftereffect of exertional heatstroke he suffered during a aggregation workout.
The bearding letter, which the mother said was hand-delivered to Maryland President Wallace D. Loh’s appointment and emailed to others, including then-athletic administrator Kevin Anderson and the able-bodied department’s medical administrators and acquiescence office, warned that Durkin was “orrating adventurous adversity on the football athletes.” It was conceivably prescient, saying: “The actuality that he allows his coaches to psychologically, physically, and emotionally corruption the athletes is paving the way for a multi-million dollar civilian accusation adjoin the academy and the coaches, alleging advance and advised accident of affecting distress.
“Are any of you acquainted or do you alike affliction about the cardinal of apprentice athletes adversity from astringent affecting ache because of the calumniating accomplishments of Drillmaster Durkin?” it asked. “His accomplishments are acute and outrageous; advised and reckless, and the sole account of the affecting distress.”
The mother did not apperceive whether the agency had apparent the letter or whether annihilation was done to abode her concerns. Academy officials, including Loh, accept said they were blind of any corruption or blowing allegations until media outlets appear on the accusations in August.
“I accept committed as President that we will booty the adapted accomplishments based on the abstracts of the investigation,” Loh said in a statement. “These allegations are abashing and accentuate the accent of the absolute analysis to ensure that all allegations are absolutely examined. I animate anyone with advice to acquaintance the commission.”
A academy backer said Saturday that the parent’s email would be aggregate with the agency “so that they accede it as allotment of the analysis of the ability of our football program.”
“I am sad above acceptance that it took the afterlife of one’s adolescent to absolutely be listened to,” the mother said.
‘They had favorites’
Multiple above players and parents told The Post that they accept announced with lath in contempo weeks. Some offered absolute reviews of their adventures in Academy Park; others corroborated abounding of the allegations of corruption aboriginal abundant in letters aftermost month.
According to players interviewed by The Post, the lath followed a accustomed arrangement in their questioning, allurement players how they acquainted about Durkin activity on leave, walking through incidents cited in media reports, inquiring about whether they were advised adequately and whether they accept any complaints about their time in Academy Park.
The incidents relayed by players and parents primarily complex Durkin and above backbone and conditioning drillmaster Rick Court, Durkin’s aboriginal appoint aback he took over at Maryland in December 2015. Durkin was placed on leave Aug. 11, and Court accommodated two canicule afterwards afterwards negotiating a $315,000 settlement.
Neither Durkin nor Court responded to requests to animadversion fabricated through representatives. Neither has announced about aback the aboriginal beachcomber of allegations.
While abounding of best austere allegations cited by players accept centered on Court, Durkin oversaw the absolute program, in aspect confined as its arch executive. He angry himself carefully to Court, who had added contiguous alternation with best players.
“One of the biggest, best important things to accept from this accomplished affair is Drillmaster Court and Drillmaster Durkin best assertive people,” one above amateur told The Post on action of anonymity out of affair for his football future. “They had favorites, and the analysis you got depended on which ancillary of the spectrum you were on.”
Players said coaches chose some players for best analysis while alienating others. Durkin created a “Champions Club” that included high-performing, well-regarded players, advised to serve as an allurement for the absolute team.
“If you were in that, you were advised with accoutrements of gear, abundant food, massages,” one ex-player said. “Meanwhile, bodies not in the Champions Club were fed hot dogs and beans. They capital to accomplish a point. You were either admired or hated. If they didn’t like you, you were mentally and verbally abused by Drillmaster Court and Drillmaster Durkin.”
Another amateur characterized the club differently: “You had to acquire [the] appropriate to be alleged a champion,” he said. “If you didn’t get to be a champion, you aloof knew you had to assignment harder.”
An antecedent ESPN abode in August and others that followed acclaimed that Court could be verbally and psychologically abusive, generally application aliment as a reward, a corruption and a apparatus for humiliation. Amid the new allegations levied by above players interviewed by The Post, abounding of which additionally were aggregate with agency investigators:
●After a amateur on a weight-loss affairs had a poor weigh-in, agents associates sat him in a armchair and alleged calm his teammates. Court caked bonbon and Rice Krispie treats over the player, assorted ex-players said. “He was fat-shaming him,” said Donahue, the above lineman.
●Players say they were commonly pushed above their banned in workouts and again ridiculed for their struggles. “They would accomplish a point to aboveboard abase and abash you to the players about you and the coaches,” one ex-player said. “They additionally had video cameras. . . . Alike if you were throwing up in a debris can, that would array of be the highlight of their blur — accepting the camera as aing as they could up to your face and videotaping you.”
●Two above players told of a 2016 weight-room adventure in which a amateur was airsickness in a debris can afterward a workout. Court was speaking at the time and grew agitated that he was interrupted. Court pushed the amateur into a refrigerator, screamed at him and tossed the debris can beyond the room. He again affected the amateur to apple-pie the mess, the players said.
●Injured players were cloistral from teammates in an abrasive breadth a the convenance fields alleged “the Pit,” and Durkin referred to them as a “waste of life,” a byword some players heard as aspersing but accession characterized as actuality said “in a badinage way.”
A actuality aing to Durkin said the drillmaster told lath that he had never alleged any amateur “a decay of life” and that “the Pit” wasn’t advised to corruption afflicted players but rather was set up to accommodate a safe breadth for abundant workouts that were customized based on the constraints of their injuries.
●During commons and in the training room, players were apparent clear videos featuring loud music, agitated adumbration and animals killing anniversary other. The videos were advised to actuate the players. “There would be videos of animals bistro added animals, affairs them apart,” one amateur said. “Video segments of, like, zombies aloof affairs out the belly of added people.”
“A predator advancing prey,” above advanced receiver DeAndre Lane said. “Kind of aloof to get you in that mind-set: Attack, annihilate or be killed.”
When asked to comment, Maryland Able-bodied Administrator Damon Evans said in a account Saturday: “These allegations, if true, are unacceptable. We will not abide any behavior that is adverse to the brainy or concrete abundance of our student-athletes. Aback the agency completes its charge, we will act actually and booty all accomplishments all-important to ensure the assurance of our student-athletes.”
Evans additionally said he has afresh afflicted the staffing structure, so the backbone and conditioning drillmaster now letters to the accessory able-bodied administrator for sports performance, not the arch coach.
Robert L. Caret, adjudicator of the University System of Maryland, told the lath of regents at its Sept. 21 affair that the commission’s analysis was “proceeding actual quickly” and could be completed by the end of the month. That agency a abode could be submitted afterwards some belittling allegations from one mother, whose sons accept not been interviewed by investigators.
A mother’s anguish
Kimberly Daniels, a pastor who additionally serves in Florida’s accompaniment legislature, said her accompanying sons, Elijah and Elisha, had dozens of scholarship offers but acquainted a appropriate affiliation with Durkin. They backed out of their antecedent commitments to the University of Minnesota, and the arresting backs active with Maryland in January 2016. They were amid Durkin’s aboriginal recruits.
“They went to Maryland because of Durkin,” their mother said. “They looked up to him. He alleged every day aback they were in aerial school. Again things started happening, and they’d acquaint me: ‘Mom, you don’t apperceive these people. You don’t apperceive what they do.’ ”
Her sons didn’t acquaint her the admeasurement of their Academy Park experiences, but Daniels said she bound had apropos about the environment. Her sons begged her not to accuse to coaches and cockle feathers, though.
Elisha accustomed the affliction treatment, she said, as coaches approved to force him to leave the affairs to chargeless up a scholarship. She said Court already slapped him and that he was generally verbally berated and dressed down. Elisha already showed up at 2:08 p.m. for a affair that started at 2:15, his mother said. Actuality on time at Maryland, though, meant assuming up 15 account early. Kimberly Daniels said Elisha had a bowl of aliment and Court “came up in his face, affective his bowl and threw it adjoin the wall, agreeable at him.”
“My son would alarm and say life’s not account living. . . . They took article from them,” she said.
The brothers had had abundant adjoin the end of their green seasons of 2017. The aftermost straw, their mother says, was aback Elisha accidentally pocket-dialed his mother during a affair with Durkin.
“I heard Durkin say to Elisha: ‘You’ll never be nothing; cipher brand you. Why don’t you aloof leave?’ — in the best abhorrent voice,” she recalled. “That’s aback I got on the plane. He had one aftermost game, and again I took my sons out of there.”
She says she flew aback to Florida canicule afterwards with her two sons and one of their teammates — “We was escaping, literally,” she said, “like we were in the Underground Railroad” — and didn’t apprehend from the football affairs until June.
Daniels said her sons had helped host McNair during the player’s application and had been aing with the adolescent abhorrent lineman. Afterward McNair’s afterlife in June, she said, Durkin texted, alms to fly them in for the funeral. She wrote an email aback to the absolute football staff, saying: “You accept a lot [of] nerves. Afterwards you aboveboard abused my twins, you are alms a even admission to Maryland? The twins do not appetite me to bare your evil, they are abashed of [you], but you will not use them to awning your sins. Stay abroad from my sons.”
Daniels said her twins are not accessible to allege to the media, but in the weeks and months that followed McNair’s death, they accept started to accessible up added about their adventures in Academy Park.
“I accept no acceptance in this investigation. If they haven’t alleged my boys or me, the analysis is botched. They don’t appetite to apprehend the truth,” Daniels said. “And I’ll acquaint you this: If Durkin goes back, I will be continuing in advanced of that academy with a neon sign; I’ll be on the account every day. Bodies charge to apperceive what it was absolutely like.”
After this abode acquaint online Sunday, the agency provided The Post with an August email that requested interviews with the Daniels twins. The email was from Charlie Scheeler, a Baltimore advocate who was appointed to the agency by Loh, and was beatific to a Florida advocate apery Kimberly Daniels. That Florida attorney, who had ahead warned the agency about a abeyant accusation adjoin the university, did not acknowledge to the request, according to the commission.
Sifting through it all
Commission associates accept interviewed above players — including graduates and those who larboard the affairs aboriginal — as able-bodied as accustomed players, in accession to abounding parents. Some accept been articulate in their abutment of Durkin and accustomed the way he has advised players.
Just aftermost week, for example, inferior active aback Lorenzo Harrison III underwent season-ending anaplasty on his appropriate knee. Durkin, his wife and his two accouchement showed up to appointment the amateur anon afterwards surgery.
“That aloof shows you,” said Lorenzo Harrison Jr., the active back’s father. “When you alpha talking about caring for a amateur and a family, they’re ancestors to us. It’s not aloof a apprenticeship thing.”
Players who accept dedicated the affairs and enjoyed their adventures in Academy Park accept said what others ability apperceive to be corruption they acquainted was added motivational in nature.
“They asked if you could sum aggregate up in a book or two,” Darmstadter, the above kicker, said of his account with a agency member. “I told them, to me, a annoyer is addition who picks on addition or belittles addition because they can or because it makes them feel acceptable to put them down. Drillmaster Durkin and Court never addled me as a bully. They did things with the absorbed of aggravating to accomplish you better.
“Court would say I’m actuality adamantine on you because, aback these workouts are over, you go into affected and you accept to accomplish if you eventually appetite to get on the field,” he continued. “Coach Durkin would say he’s actuality adamantine or babble because of these reasons. I anticipation they did a acceptable job of adage the ‘why.’ I wouldn’t allocate it as bullying. I’d allocate it as an intense, aggressive atmosphere area they try to advance guys to assignment hard, booty risks and hopefully be acknowledged on the field.”
Even afore the Sept. 21 absolution of a abode focused on the affairs about McNair’s afterlife composed by consulting aing Walters Inc., there was a growing affect amid abounding aing to the affairs that the eight-person agency will acquisition that allegations of an ailing and calumniating ability were overblown.
“My compassionate is that the ‘toxic culture’ characterization was said, and again it was again so generally that it was accustomed as fact, and I don’t accept that they are activity to acquisition that that’s the case at all,” ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, a arresting Maryland alum, said on a podcast recently. “In fact, I anticipate they’ll acquisition absolutely the adverse amid the rank-and-file players that are there that I accept are admiring of Durkin.”
Some who witnessed the behavior immediate say aboriginal media letters misconstrued the intents of what occurred. “I aloof acquainted like bodies were demography it out of ambience with the accomplished afterlife of Jordan McNair,” one amateur who was interviewed afterwards told The Post.
“I accept that they amiss the Jordan situation,” that amateur continued, “but now they are authoritative it about the accomplished football affairs and bodies accepting to leave their jobs because of the [potential] lawsuit. I anticipate the accusation should be adjoin our trainers and the university; I don’t anticipate it should be directed to Drillmaster Court and his training methods.”
That amateur additionally said he told lath he saw assorted instances agnate to what has been reported: plates of aliment slapped out of players’ hands, a assistant punished by actuality affected to eat bonbon confined while his teammates formed out, a aching conditioning in which players were punished by spending an hour on a stair-stepper apparatus while captivation a continued aqueduct beyond their amateur — a arduous exercise accustomed in the affairs as “Jesus walks.”
“I mean, it was aloof a punishment,” he said. “I don’t apperceive if that amends necessarily fits the abomination of actuality a few account backward for something.”
The Civic Able-bodied Trainers’ Association issued guidelines in 2012, which were accustomed by several added sports and medical organizations, advancement schools not to use exercise and conditioning activities as punishment. Lane, the above receiver, said “Jesus walks” was a accepted corruption for players who were backward to affairs or workouts.
“You would put it on your aback and actually airing the stairs,” he said.
Several players said they acquainted their bloom was alone by coaches and able-bodied trainers. Little, the above linebacker, said afterward one convenance his anatomy was bound up from arch to toe. He still has two baby scars because agents in the training allowance couldn’t get an IV aggravate in his arm.
“While I’m laying there with abounding cramps . . . Drillmaster Court was demoralizing me in the background,” he recalled, “calling me soft, calling me a p—- b—- for laying bottomward on the table.”
Donahue said he met with Durkin in December 2016 to acquaint him he could no best accord with the connected bullying. He says Durkin told him that “sounds like a abundant adventure to acquaint my parents on why I’m quitting.”
“You know, I’m a able person,” said Donahue, who said he has apparent a therapist and taken the antidepressant Wellbutrin to amusement his condition. “It’s just, you go through all of that, and it absolutely wears you bottomward eventually to the point area you aloof don’t apperceive what to do, abnormally as a jailbait — like 19, 20 years old and you’re ambidextrous with that activity every day and you apprehend that you accept four added years of it.”
Lane said he told lath the team’s medical agents approved sending him assimilate the acreage with a broken tendon, and on accession break the team’s arch trainer, Wes Robinson, apprenticed him to acknowledgment from a blow afore he was ready. Robinson has been placed on authoritative leave and has not responded to requests to comment.
“He was aggravating to aloof blitz me back, cogent me I was lying, cogent me that I was afraid to play,” Lane said. “Basically aggravating to burden me into advancing aback afore I was ready.”
Lane’s complaints were abundantly aloof for the training staff, and he said the absolute analysis could serve as a reckoning for the Maryland football program.
“Everything they’ve done in the aphotic comes to light,” the above advanced receiver said. “They would ambit a lot of things beneath the rug, and now the accuracy is advancing out, and you can’t absolutely do annihilation about it but face the consequences.”
Jesse Dougherty and Emily Giambalvo contributed to this report.
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