The family of football player Jordan McNair says they feel they have been “spit in the face” after the news that University of Maryland football coach DJ Durkin was reinstated from administrative leave following the 19-year-old’s death.
It was on May 29 that McNair — originally from Randallstown, Maryland — had trouble recovering after completing a series of 110-yard sprints during a workout. When the training staff noticed, they took McNair to a nearby training room for additional care. But with his condition worsening, the staff called for paramedics, who transported the ailing McNair to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. McNair would then received a liver transplant in the days following his collapse and eventually died two weeks later on June 13.
An external investigation by the university found that McNair died from a heat stroke, which he may have survived if not for the staff’s “failure to identify symptoms and aggressively treat it,” said Dr. Rod Walters, a sports medicine consultant who led the school’s inquiry, according to CBS.
McNair did not have his temperature taken and staff did not give him cold immersion treatment, otherwise known as an ice bath, which is the recommended procedure for heat stroke.
While McNair’s family had called for Durkin’s firing, the school announced on Tuesday that they were reinstating him, as recommended by their Board of Regents.
“The Board of Regents recommended that DJ Durkin return to his coaching responsibilities,” Athletics Director Damon Evans said in a statement sent to PEOPLE. “This has been a season like no other for our football players, and I have been tremendously impressed at how our student-athletes have come together as they grieve the loss of their teammate Jordan McNair.”
After the announcement, McNair’s father, Marty, said hearing the decision felt like he had been “punched.”
“I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and somebody spit in my face,” he said, according to CBS.
The only school administrator to step down following McNair’s death is president Wallace D. Loh, who announced his resignation this week after admitting the university carries “some responsibility” for the “dysfunction” of their athletics department.
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“The past several months have been exceedingly difficult for the University, Maryland football, and all who support the Terps following the tragic death of Jordan McNair,” Loh said in his statement, adding that his final day will be June 30, 2019. “Last August, I accepted legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made in Jordan’s care… I stand by that decision 100 percent.”
However, on Wednesday afternoon, the school confirmed to PEOPLE that they were indeed parting ways with Durkin, as it was “the right [decision] for our entire University.”
When it was initially announced he would be returning, some players expressed their disappointment with his return.
Player Ellis McKennie sent out a picture of his teammates kneeling in remembrance of McNair with a message that called for someone to be held accountable for his death.
“Every Saturday my teammates and I have to kneel before the memorial of our fallen teammate,” McKennie wrote. “Yet a group of people do not have the courage to hold anyone accountable for his death. If only they could have the courage that Jordan had. It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right.”
Adam McLean, another of McNair’ teammates, said the team feels it is their responsibility to find justice for their former teammate.
“My brother Jordan can no longer speak his mind,” McLean said. “He must live and speak through us.”
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ESPN reports that the University of Maryland student body had already organized rallies to protest the decision to bring back Durkin.
“The only person who paid, as the McNair family’s representative said, was Jordan, and that was with his life,” Jonathan Allen, Maryland’s student body president, told the sports outlet. “That’s why we’re outraged.”
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