Be who you can afford to be: Blog 6

I am not sure how many of you have been following the University of Maryland saga with their head football coach DJ Durkin. I am originally from Maryland, so though I am a Hokie, I still keep up with my home state and was appalled when I first heard what was happening with that particular program. For those unfamiliar, Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old football player, passed away in late May after suffering an exertional heat stroke at a team workout. Following McNair’s passing an investigation found the culture of the football program to be largely to blame. Maryland’s coaches have been accused of fostering a culture of “abuse, fear and intimidation” [1]. Coach Durkin had been under administrative leave since August, and I began writing this blog after hearing of his reinstatement (much to the chagrin of many involved) on 10/30/2018. It turned out that the board of regents decided they did not want to part ways with Durkin and wanted him reinstated. Some media outlets even speculated that if University of Maryland’s President Loh (who decided to retire after the Spring semester in 2019) wanted to fire Durkin then the board would fire Loh and find someone willing to reinstate Durkin.

This begs the question, how have Universities become so indebted to athletic programs? Maryland is the most recent, ridiculous example of Universities going to extremely lengths to protect its high profile football coaches, and it likely won’t be the last. Earlier this year it seemed that Ohio State was investigating to find a way to keep Urban Myer as much as it was to remove him. I also know these problems are not entirely localized to college athletics – there are plenty of stories of scientists, celebrities, politicians, etc. doing similar things and getting, at most, a slap on the wrist.

Pat McAfee (an ex-NFL punter, podcaster) commonly gives behind the scene perspectives on NFL teams, his college days, previous mistakes, and commonly uses the phrase “be who you can afford to be”. The phrase has really stuck with me, and is my only explanation for how these things continue to happen. In my opinion, it’s at the root of why the proverbial book will be thrown at someone deemed expendable, while someone with a significant profile will be let off for doing the same thing. Sadly, this mantra not only exists in our society, but is also being realized in our institutions of higher learning.

Update: After receiving significant backlash from the community, campus, faculty, and Governor of Maryland (among others) Coach Durkin was released one day after his reinstatement.

Edit: I realized I published this under the wrong category so recently republished it for class.

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2018/10/31/maryland-parts-ways-with-head-football-coach-dj-durkin/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bda3efbc5389

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