BALTIMORE, Md. — An attorney representing the family of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair told ESPN on Sunday that coach DJ Durkin should be fired as a result of McNair’s death from heatstroke suffered during a May workout.
In a sit-down interview at the offices of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in downtown Baltimore, Billy Murphy said McNair’s death could have been prevented, saying the coaching staff showed “absolute indifference” toward McNair’s life.
The 19-year-old from Randallstown, Maryland, died on June 13, two weeks after he showed signs of extreme exhaustion and had difficulty standing upright while running a set of 110-yard sprints.
Murphy said there are three reasons why Durkin should be fired.
“No. 1, what he did,” Murphy said, “No. 2, what he didn’t do, and No. 3, the impact on this football program.”
Murphy said they are “leaning” toward filing a civil lawsuit in federal court but that their preference would be to wait until the university’s external investigation is finished, which is expected on Sept. 15. McNair’s death and whether university coaches and officials followed proper protocols after he became distressed is being investigated by a university-hired, former longtime collegiate athletic trainer, Rod Walters.
The attorney said the civil lawsuit could be against the institution, the offices responsible, executives, or a coach or coaches.
“There are a variety of ways to cast a lawsuit,” Murphy said. “We’re going to go for the most effective way.”
The firm can file in state court — where Murphy said there are “ridiculously low caps, which prevent recovery from this kind of injury commensurate with the level of severity of the injury” — or in federal court, where there are no caps.
“It’s too early to make a definitive statement about it,” Murphy said, “but we’re leaning in the direction of federal court.”
Maryland did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Murphy’s comments. Durkin, along with three staff members, has been placed on administrative leave as the university investigates McNair’s death and an ESPN report of allegations of abuse and disparagement in the football program.
Murphy said the lawyers have not yet viewed a copy of the May 29 workout video because “the university hasn’t released it.”
“There was security footage that is also available,” he said, “but we have not been made privy to it.”
ESPN has also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the video and has asked for it on multiple occasions, but it has not yet been provided.
The Maryland workout, which was organized and led by the strength and conditioning staff, began at 4:15 p.m. on May 29. McNair and other linemen were near the end of their sprint set when McNair started having difficulties. Murphy has said McNair had a seizure at about 5 p.m. following a sprint.
University officials have disputed that a seizure took place around 5 p.m., stating, “At no point before during the external review has a student-athlete, athletic trainer or coach reported a seizure occurring at 5 p.m.”
Said Murphy: “It’s in the medical records that one of the coaching staff personnel saw him seize 45 minutes into the practice. That couldn’t have come from anybody else. It’s in several pages … and the doctors, of course, relied on that in choice of treatment.”
“Had this coaching staff done even minimal heatstroke training, they would have seen immediately that that’s what was going on,” Murphy added. “They would have iced him and called the ambulance immediately, but there was this unexplainable one-hour delay from the time that he had a seizure and the time the ambulance actually came. That’s really concerning.”
Murphy said he “absolutely” believed that McNair was not given proper medical care.
“If this coaching staff knew rudimentally, from the internet, from any number of sources, what the symptoms of heatstroke were, Jordan would be alive today,” Murphy said. “There’s no question about it.”