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Matt Canada is Maryland's interim coach, and DJ Durkin might never come back

Matt Canada is Maryland's interim coach, and DJ Durkin might never come back ...

Matt Canada is Maryland's interim coach, and DJ Durkin might never come back

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

As the Maryland football team starts its 2018 season, head coach DJ Durkin isn’t on the sideline. Durkin has been on administrative leave since Aug. 11. Unlike his former boss and mentor Urban Meyer at Ohio State, it’s not clear that Durkin will ever return.

Replacing Durkin is an interim head coach, Matt Canada â€" most recently LSU’s offensive coordinator during a tumultuous 2017, and before that one of the country’s better OCs at Pitt, NC State, Wisconsin, NIU, and Indiana.

Durkin’s long-term job status is unclear in the fallout of a player’s death. But many close to the program don’t think he’ll ever return.

His exact fate won’t be known until two investigations into the program are finished, or at least until they’ve made more progress. One of them deals with how the program acted on and before May 29, the day offensive lineman Jordan McNair fell ill at a team workout, before dying of heatstroke on June 13. The other investigation stemmed from a subsequent ESPN report about the “toxic” culture inside Durkin’s program.

Walters Inc., an athletic training consultancy, has been conducting the investigation into the care Maryland gave McNair (and its safety practices up to that point). Maryland has said it expects to get findings back in mid-September, but school president Wallace Loh and athletic director Damon Evans have already acknowledged errors. The Walters investigation seems focused more on the team’s trainers than on Durkin.

“Some of the actions of our athletic training staff â€" not the coaching staff, our athletic training staff â€" they basically misdiagnosed the situation,” Loh told reporters Aug. 14.

The other investigation, into Maryland’s day-to-day culture, is a bigger problem for Durkin’s job security.

Durkin has more potential exposure as a university commission looks into the culture he fostered. The ESPN report accused strength coach Rick Court of ritually embarrassing and mistreating players, and Durkin has long fawned over Court’s work.

“It’s so important, I believe, that the strength coach and the head coach are directly in line with one another in terms of what’s important, what’s the message we’re delivering, and Rick and I are,” Durkin told the Carroll County Times in 2016, after he hired Court. “We’re totally synchronized in that and so he’s huge. He’s critical to all we do.”

Court resigned after the ESPN report and reportedly reached a settlement with the school that paid him $315,000. But Durkin, for now, is in limbo.

Adding to the sense that Durkin won’t return, McNair’s family has called for his firing.

In a Good Morning America appearance in August, McNair’s father, Martin, told Michael Strahan unequivocally that the coach who recruited his son should lose his job.

“Yes. Absolutely,” Martin McNair said. “He shouldn’t be able to work with anybody else’s kid. You don’t send your kid away to college, Michael, you send your kid away to college for them to be developed into young people. And that’s physically, emotionally, spiritually, and just teach our young kids that you work so hard to get there, to, ‘hey, I’ve given my child to you. Keep him safe.’ And they did anything but that. So of course he should be fired.”

Durkin does have the support of a large group of football boosters.

A source close to the program said he expected Durkin could remain on leave well into the season. In public comments, Maryland leaders have left open that possibility.

Loh and Evans, the president and AD, could also lose their jobs, depending on what the investigations into the program turn up.

So, Canada has a challenging job: coach a team that’s still grieving a teammate, while the leadership structure around him is in chaos.

Commonly, interim head coaches make it clear to everyone around a program that they intend to audition for the long-term head coaching job. Canada has been an FBS assistant for 20 years and been in particular demand over the last few years, but he emphasized in the run-up to the season that he wasn’t focused on his future at Maryland.

“I look at it completely different,” he told a reporter who asked before Week 1 whether he’d try to prove himself as a head coach. “And again, I appreciate the question, but this is a unique situation. Obviously it’s a challenging situation, but ultimately it’s still about Jordan and that’s why we’re here and all of these things have occurred.”

Grief will be the backdrop to Maryland’s entire season, and uncertainty will accompany it for as long as Durkin is on leave.

The first thing to talk about when talking about Maryland football in 2018 will be McNair. The second will be what Maryland does to keep current and future athletes safe.

McNair’s teammates will still play football, and they’re supposed to win five or six games. If the team turns out to be pretty good, it will probably be because of Canada’s offense.

Before flaming out at LSU after 2017 amid reported disagreements with Ed Orgeron, he’d developed a strong offense at Pitt. Canada’s coaching performance was a key reason the Panthers were the only team to beat 2016’s eventual national champion, Clemson. In strictly football terms, the Terps under Canada might be an interesting team to watch.

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This Article has a component height of 24. The sidebar size is long.Source: Google News Canada | Netizen 24 Canada

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