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Investigation: Maryland interns ordered to 'drag' Jordan McNair; no decision on DJ Durkin

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 9/21/2018 A.J. Perez
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TOWSON, Md. — An athletic trainer ordered interns to "drag" Jordan McNair across the field during the practice where the 19-year-old lineman fell ill, according to a report released Friday on McNair's death. 

Results of the independent investigation presented to the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents detailed how Maryland's training staff failed to detect or quickly treat McNair for heat illness during a May 29 practice. McNair died on June 13. 

No decision was made on the future of head football coach DJ Durkin, who was placed on leave in August after an ESPN report alleged that he fostered a culture of intimidation and humiliation. After emerging from a lengthy closed-session board meeting, USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady said personnel decisions won't occur until the second investigation that focuses on Durkin's conduct is concluded.

Brady said that second investigation would be concluded "soon."

Investigators talked to only six Maryland football players and summaries of just four appeared in the report on McNair's death.  

Three of those four described how head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson yelled for the interns to drag McNair across the field. One said, Robinson yelled to "drag his ass across the field." Another said Robinson demanded "to get him the (expletive) up." 

At that point of the practice, one player said McNair "could barely stand."

"The coaches preach a 'no quit' mentality," one player said. "No one wants to go to the Pit (area of practice for injured players). The Pit is no joke, and players avoid this at all costs."

Ex-Maryland strength coach Rick Court, who was hired by Durkin, resigned in August and two members of the training staff were placed on leave. A Maryland spokesperson declined to identify which members of the training staff are currently suspended when USA TODAY Sports inquired Friday. 

McNair became ill during sprints, although it took 34 minutes before he was removed from the field after he first showed symptoms, according to the report. He was placed in an ambulance 1 hour, 39 minutes later as his condition deteriorated and he began to suffer seizures. 

McNair was never given cold immersion therapy before he was transported, the most effective way to treat heat illness and one that can be life-saving if done within 30 minutes of the onset of symptoms. The medical staff also didn't take vital signs, including core temperature, according to the report. 

"Hindsight is 20-20," longtime athletic trainer Rod Walters, who was tapped to lead the McNair investigation, said. "If we would have identified that earlier, it might have changed things."

The Board of Regents took over control of the investigation into McNair's death along with the bullying investigation of Durkin on Aug. 17. The two investigations had previously been led by the University of Maryland and school president Wallace D. Loh told reporters on Aug. 14 that "the university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May 29."

Neither Brady or Walters were nearly as forceful in laying blame on Friday. 

"I wish we could say that we could bring Jordan McNair back to life," Brady said. "That'd be the greatest thing we can possibly do. That cannot be done. The tragedy that the McNair family has had to deal with cannot be overcome, but we can use this experience to make student-athlete safety much better." 

Walters said that McNair’s case was “an atypical presentation of a heat stroke,” which included back pain and cramping – appearing to gloss over the player interviews that detailed McNair's issues that day. One of the players said McNair had collapsed, although the report noted that the claim was not corroborated by staffers on site that day. 

Walters said that a review of Maryland’s action plan policy “meets guidelines” and the schools’ heat illness procedure “meets standards, but there were concerns outlined in the report.”

Walters recommended changes, many of which Maryland has already put in place.

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