Ex-Maryland football players settle lawsuit over toxic culture claims during coach DJ Durkin’s tenure

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  • D. J. Durkin
    American football player and coach

Two former Maryland football players have settled a lawsuit against the state of Maryland, the University of Maryland, coach DJ Durkin and other officials that accused the university of running a toxic football program and subjecting players to an abusive culture.

The former players, Gus Little and Eric Donahue, reached an agreement with the state last month for $200,000 each, according to documents provided by their attorney. The lawsuit came after the death of former Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who suffered a heat stroke during a team practice in June 2018. McNair’s death led to investigations into Durkin’s program.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.

“The resolution of this case is further vindication of Jordan’s life and the needless sacrifice he had to make in order for these issues to come to light,” said Malcolm Ruff, one of the Baltimore-based lawyers who represented the former players.

After McNair’s death, an investigation conducted by an independent commission found it “fostered a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out.”

“Nobody deserves to be treated the way that these young men were treated,” Ruff said. “And it led directly to ignoring obvious signs of heatstroke and heat illness in Jordan McNair, leading to his preventable and very. sad death, which we mourn to this day.”

Little, a former linebacker, and Donahue, a former offensive lineman, filed a lawsuit against the school in August 2019, naming Durkin, Court and former head athletic trainer Wes Robinson as defendants.

The school admitted to no wrongdoing. The state of Maryland, on behalf of the university, settled the matter on behalf of each defendant, according to Ruff.

Maryland athletic director Damon Evans did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Durkin was eventually fired from Maryland and has been the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Ole Miss since 2020. Court, who resigned from the football program, was hired in June to be a coordinator of athletic strength and conditioning for Greenville High School in Michigan.

In January, the University of Maryland reached a $3.5 million settlement with Jordan’s parents, Martin McNair and Tonya Wilson.

Ruff said the players are trying to move on from their experience.

“It’s also a critical moment for the culture of coaching,” Ruff said. “It shows that the culture of coaching has to change and is changing. And if it doesn’t change, it will be addressed and there’ll be consequences.”

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