Jordan McNair didn’t have to die.
It has been the thought of many people, including his family for much of the summer.
On Tuesday afternoon both University of Maryland president Wallace Loh and Director of Athletics Damon Evans made that thought their public statement.
The duo took to the podium in College Park, with the media expecting answers and progress reports on two key investigations. What they got was refreshing honesty in a world where legalese and non-committal statements are the norm.
Loh opened up the press conference by stating bluntly that Maryland accepted full responsibility — both legal and moral — for the death of McNair.
While the words in front of the camera were nice, Loh and Evans also noted that what they were saying publicly was no different than what they were saying to the family of Jordan McNair.
The duo traveled to Baltimore to speak with the family on Tuesday and looked them in the eye and accepted responsibility as a university and athletic department for what happened to their son.
Words will never bring back their son, as Loh and Evans noted. However, their honesty and accepting of responsibility in an unequivocal manner is a step in the right direction for healing for the McNair family.
I mean, how many athletic directors and university presidents lay it out like this:
It was the right — and hard — thing to do though. It was also the measure of the character of Loh and Evans, both of which have come under serious question in the wake of the last few days of reporting.
It wasn’t just Loh who went with honesty as the best policy. The same went for Evans when he stepped to the podium. He got legitimately chocked up when talking about McNair’s death and the expectations that were not met by the football program in general.
They weren’t rehearsed tears or fake emotions. It was easy to tell that Evans was deeply hurt and saddened by the pain that McNair’s family expressed while meeting in person.
Evans also made a clear statement with the announcement that Rick Court, who was at the center of the allegations in McNair’s death and the ESPN report last week, was no longer on staff. At first it wasn’t clear that Court was gone, but Evans named him after being asked directly by a reporter who the “member of the football staff” was that had been let go.
Later it was reported that Court and the Terps came to a settlement and he resigned his position late yesterday.
Once again, the right thing was done and it was done swiftly based off of the preliminary progress report that Loh and Evans have received.
Maryland is also putting in place a four-person committee to investigate the claims in the ESPN article. It will be tasked with finding the truth, but also doing it in a timely manner.
The Terps emphasis on truth over speculation from external forces is also the right thing to do — both for Durkin and most importantly for McNair’s family.
What that truth ends up being and what happens once it is all made public, we don’t know today. The proof that the words spoken today will have lasting meaning will be in how things change around the athletic department.
But, if there can be any good in McNair’s death it will be in that this is prevented from ever happening again.
It’s the right thing to do to honor a young man who had no business dying and to help a grieving family get some measure of closure to this painful chapter in their lives.
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