Maryland has placed two athletic trainers and a strength coach on administrative leave as the school continues its review of the circumstances surrounding the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, sources told ESPN.
Athletic director Damon Evans informed the team Saturday that head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson, director of athletic training Steve Nordwall, and Rick Court, Maryland’s assistant athletics director for sports performance, were placed on administrative leave, according to people at the meeting.
Maryland said Friday that it had placed members of its athletics staff on administrative leave pending an external review but did not specify the employees. Robinson has been Maryland’s head football athletic trainer since 2006. Nordwall joined Maryland in 2014 and oversees health care services for all of the school’s student-athletes. Court was the first staff hire when D.J. Durkin became Maryland’s head coach in 2015.
ESPN on Friday reported McNair died of heatstroke on June 13, two weeks after participating in a May 29 team workout at Maryland’s outdoor practice fields. McNair had difficulty standing upright while running a set of 110-yard sprints and was found to have a body temperature of 106 degrees when he arrived at a local hospital, multiple sources told ESPN.
Maryland has hired Dr. Rod Walters, a former longtime collegiate athletic trainer, to conduct its external review, which is expected to be released Sept. 15. McNair’s parents have hired Baltimore law firm Murphy, Falcon & Murphy to conduct a separate investigation.
McNair family attorney Billy Murphy told ESPN on Thursday that McNair had a seizure at about 5 p.m., approximately 45 minutes after the sprints began. After evaluating McNair at the football facilities, EMT responders called in “male patient with a seizure,” and McNair was transported to Washington Adventist Hospital, according to the 911 call. He later was moved to Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he remained until he died June 13.
In a statement Friday to ESPN, Maryland said: “At no point before or during the external review has a student-athlete, athletic trainer or coach reported a seizure occurring at 5 p.m.”
Evans said June 14 that McNair completed the workout, which consisted of 10 110-yard sprints, before falling ill. Evans added that athletic trainers noticed that McNair was having trouble recovering and began “providing necessary care.”
But multiple sources present at the workout told ESPN that McNair experienced physical problems toward the end of the workout and needed two teammates to help him complete the 10th sprint. Sources said after the 10th sprint that Robinson yelled, “Drag his ass across the field!”
“There were multiple people that said, ‘Wow, Jordan looks f—ed up, he doesn’t look all right,'” one player present at the workout told ESPN. “We knew he was really exhausted, but we didn’t know he was in danger of his life. But that doesn’t mean that a medical professional shouldn’t know to put him in an ice tub.”
Court led the May 29 workout where McNair became ill but was not involved in treating him afterward. In an ESPN story published Friday, current and former players, as well as staff members, said Court was often verbally abusive and humiliated players. A former staff member said he threw items in players’ direction in the weight room, forced an injured player to compete in a tug-of-war competition against the entire defensive back unit and regularly called players profane terms.
Durkin has called Court the most important hire he has made. Court previously led Mississippi State’s strength and conditioning program.
“He’s just a ball of testosterone all the time,” a current player told ESPN of Court. “He’s really in your face. He’ll call you [expletives]. He’ll challenge you in the weight room. He’ll put more weight on the bar than you can do, ever done in your life, and expect you to do it multiple times. He’ll single people out he doesn’t like, which is a common practice here. Guys are run off. They’ll have them do specific finishes at the end and do harder workouts or more workouts just to make their lives miserable here. He’s kind of Durkin’s tool to accomplish that. He’s the guy people hate, and that way Durkin doesn’t have to take the blow for it. Guys can’t stand Coach Court.”