Former Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin has reportedly found work in the world of college football.
According to Al.com, Durkin, who was fired in October after a lengthy investigation into the culture of his program, has been helping Alabama in a “consultant-like capacity” this week. It is “unclear at this point,” Al.com is reporting, if Nick Saban is considering bringing in Durkin for a full-time role on the staff.
Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country, is preparing to play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, a College Football Playoff semifinal.
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Maryland fired Durkin after investigating culture of his program
Durkin was formally fired by Maryland on Oct. 31 after being put on administrative leave in August, weeks before his third season as head coach was set to begin. The coach was put on leave while the alleged “toxic” culture of his program was investigated. ESPN reported that there was a “coaching environment based on fear and intimidation” where “belittling, humiliation and embarrassment” and “verbal abuse” of players was common under Durkin at Maryland.
A day before Maryland president Wallace Loh decided to fire Durkin, Maryland’s board of regents announced a decision to retain Durkin. However, amid widespread criticism, including from state politicians, Loh decided to fire Durkin after meeting with student government and other campus leadership.
The investigation into the culture of Durkin’s program followed the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed during a May conditioning workout. McNair, just 19 years old, died two weeks later.
The investigation into Durkin’s program concluded that its culture was not “toxic.” However, it said there was a culture where “problems festered because too many players feared speaking out.” It also said that Maryland “lacked a culture of accountability” and “did not provide adequate oversight of the football program.”
A separate investigation into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death determined that the school’s training staff did not follow proper procedures in addressing the symptoms shown by McNair, who died of heat stroke.
Maryland has since hired Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to be its next head coach. Locksley plans to stay with the Tide through its playoff run.
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The optics of hiring D.J. Durkin
Nick Saban has brought former head coaches to Alabama in low-level roles before, including Lane Kiffin and ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Saban also hired Steve Sarkisian as an analyst after he was fired from USC for his issues with alcohol. But the circumstances surrounding Durkin’s termination from Maryland are much different.
Before becoming the head coach at Maryland, Durkin was defensive coordinator at Michigan and Florida and also had stints as an assistant at Stanford, Notre Dame and Bowling Green. Last month, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel polled some athletic directors about the prospects of hiring Durkin in a full-time role:
The athletic directors said laying low and out of the spotlight will help Durkin, as any decision on hiring him would likely rise to the presidential or board level.
Hiring Durkin could be tricky optics. He was not directly implicated in McNair’s death, nor did an investigation find his program had a “toxic culture,” as alleged in an ESPN report that led to his suspension two months after McNair died. But there were ugly details, including a lack of oversight of strength coach Rick Court and showing the team disturbing videos. One athletic director said a school would have to do a “ton of background” in order to hire him.
“If some remote school like Kansas State did hire him as a coordinator or some other place that isn’t that high profile, there wouldn’t be a lot of buzz,” said a Power Five athletic director.
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