Ole Miss hiring former Maryland coach D.J. Durkin as assistant

Maryland coach DJ Durkin looks a replay as the Maryland Terrapins play the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 11, 2017. (John McDonnell/Getty Images)

Ole Miss is hiring former Maryland coach D.J. Durkin as an assistant coach, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports.

This is Durkin’s first full-time job since his suspension, reinstatement and then subsequent firing without cause from Maryland in 2018. Durkin’s firing came in October 2018 in the aftermath of the death of Jordan McNair, who passed away from heatstroke in June 2018.

Durkin spent the 2019 season doing consulting work for the Atlanta Falcons and several college football programs. He remained in Maryland, continued to get paid by the University of Maryland and has been coaching his kids’ sports teams.

Ole Miss became comfortable with Durkin after doing an extensive background check, sources said. The hire was cleared well beyond new Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, as both the athletic administration and campus officials signed off on the Durkin hire.

“We received consistently strong feedback about Coach Durkin’s strong character and work ethic and his positive impact on the communities and institutions where he was previously employed,” Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said in a statement. “Once we had the chance to spend time with Coach Durkin, we were even more convinced that he is exactly the type of accomplished coach with strong football credentials who is also a proud and committed family man that will make him a great addition to our new staff.”

On the field, Durkin had established himself as a promising coach prior to his dismissal. He worked at Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Florida, Stanford and Michigan on his rise up the ranks. At Michigan, he was Jim Harbaugh’s first defensive coordinator. When he landed the Maryland job prior to the 2016 season, he was considered one of the rising stars in the profession. Durkin led the Terps to a bowl game in his first season and lured back-to-back top-30 recruiting classes in 2017 and 2018.

Durkin finished with a record of 10-15 at Maryland over two seasons. McNair collapsed on the field during an offseason workout in May 2018. McNair died 15 days later. Durkin remained the coach until August, as he was suspended after an ESPN report found a “toxic coaching culture” in the Maryland program.

Durkin was not found to be at fault in McNair’s death by two independent formal investigations. The independent commission put together by the university found “significant dysfunction in the management of the Athletics Department.” But the report disagreed with ESPN’s conclusion that the culture of the football program under Durkin at Maryland was “toxic.” The report concluded: “We do not find that the culture caused the tragic death of Jordan McNair.”

Durkin was reinstated as the head coach at Maryland after that independent report. But the media and public backlash led to his firing one day later.

Maryland has been paying Durkin’s buyout since his dismissal in 2018, as he was owed more than $5 million by the university.

Durkin’s role at Ole Miss has yet to be determined. A source said that Michigan assistant Chris Partridge is getting hired at Ole Miss as a defensive assistant coach. Partridge and Durkin worked together at Michigan. A source said that Texas A&M assistant Joe Jon Finley will also be added as an assistant coach.

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