A Teachable Moment?

Somehow, the folks in charge of the University of Maryland are going to – in their words – “honor the memory of Jordan McNair” while reinstating the head football coach who oversaw the practice conditions that led to McNair’s death.  If you can square the circle created by those two things, you are better than I am.  The way the Washington Post reports the story, university president Wallace Loh was told by the Board of Regents to reinstate Coach DJ Durklin or be fired himself.  Loh’s recommendation to the Board of Regents had been to fire Durklin based on investigations into the football program and the circumstances surrounding Jordan McNair’s death.  Loh reinstated Durkin and simultaneously announced his intention to leave the university in June 2019.

The return of Durkin did not go over all that well with the team.  According to reports, several of the players walked out of his first meeting with the team since he had been placed on paid administrative leave back in early August.  That gesture leads directly to a key point in this sordid mess:

  • What’s next?

The reporting by ESPN and The Athletic that revealed the circumstances of McNair’s death from heat exhaustion at a football practice revealed what became known as the “toxic culture” surrounding the Maryland football program.  Whatever that “toxic culture” entailed was overseen and directed by Coach Durkin and the already fired strength coach for the team.  For reasons known only to the folks in the room when the Board of Regents met and voted on what to do now, all of that information was deemed to be secondary to the reinstatement of Coach Durkin.  That is now; what is next?

I do not expect it to happen, but it would be very interesting to see how the Board of Regents would deal with a situation where a significant fraction of the football team – say half of the players – decided to come to the field on Saturday November 10 for the Terps’ next home game stand on the sidelines for the national anthem and then walk back to the locker room and choose not to play in that game.  In these times when there is lots of talk about placing proper value on college athletes in the revenue sports, that sort of action would go a long way toward establishing the athletes themselves as the critical part of the revenue generation process.

One of the phrases in vogue now is something called a “teachable moment”.  What that really means is that someone has really screwed things up and in the process of fixing them, you simultaneously show folks how they should behave so as not to screw things up again in the future.  Normally, adults apply the teaching/fixing and children do the learning.  In this case, I think the football players at Maryland can take advantage of a “teachable moment” and be the fixers/teachers for the football coaches and the Maryland board of Regents.  Will they step forward and take that mantle?

  • We shall see…

Moving up a level in the football hierarchy, the NFL trade deadline passed yesterday afternoon.  Before I comment on a couple of the transactions from yesterday, let me say that the NFL’s trading rules are far superior to those in MLB.

  • First, the deadline is around the halfway point in the season.  In baseball, the halfway point is around the end of June, but the trade deadline is not until the end of July.
  • Second, once the NFL trade deadline is passed, there are no “secondary markets” for things that are trades but are not labeled as such with concocted processes like revocable waivers and the like.
  • MLB would do well to emulate the NFL model when it comes to trading players in the middle of a season.

Several players moved around the NFL in transactions yesterday and some of the movements were interesting:

  • The Packers traded Ty Montgomery to the Ravens for a 7th round pick.  Montgomery is not a star player, but he is a useful player despite his boneheaded decision to try to return a kickoff at the end of last Sunday’s game against the Rams.  A 7th round pick is the trade equivalent of a duffel bag full of practice footballs and a used kicking tee.  That trade seems like the Packers’ recognition that he had to be separated from the team and that a 7th round pick is better than just cutting Montgomery outright.
  • The Packers also traded safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Skins for a 4th round pick.  I don’t get that move at all; Dix had started every game for the Packers this year.  Maybe the fact that he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year was the motivation for the Packers’ decision?  In any event, the Skins did well with that move.
  • The Texans needed a WR after Will Fuller tore his ACL in the game last Sunday.  They got Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos for a 4th round pick and an exchange of draft positions in the 7th round.
  • The Rams acquired an edge rusher in Dante Fowler from the Jags for a 3rd round pick next year and a 5th round pick in 2020.  I don’t understand this move at all from the Jags’ perspective.  The Jags win with their defense and not their offense; that cannot be news to anyone who follows the NFL even perfunctorily.  So, why weaken that part of the team without getting back an asset for the underachieving offensive unit?
  • The Eagles got Golden Tate from the Lions for a 3rd round pick.  I do not get that move from the Eagles’ perspective.  They need to upgrade their running game more than they need to upgrade their WR corps.  Moreover, Tate will be a free agent at the end of this year and his contract demands were too rich for the Lions, so the odds are that the Eagles traded away a 3rd round pick to “rent” golden Tate for an 8-game playoff run.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Atheist:  A person who privately prays that they don’t turn out to be wrong.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “A Teachable Moment?”

  1. It will be interesting indeed at Maryland, since there were student protests as well. There seems to be fairly consistent variations on the theme of “what were they thinking” tied to articles on the topic. Several included the deconstruction of the various excuses for the conduct, including “it’s his first head coaching job” (… that he’d been prepping for up the coaching ladder all of his professional life) and other risible claims. The apparent threat of “you go if he goes” made to the UM President is remarkably tone deaf.

    I see litigation coming from this from the McNair family.

    1. Rugger9:

      “Tone deaf” is about as polite a label as one hears around here. There are lots of folks in this area who have lost respect for the school and for the people who run it.

      Litigation from the McNair family is indeed coming and I suspect that the school will cut a FAT check to settle that matter prior to the taking of depositions.

  2. The school just fired Durkin after a day’s worth of protest.

    I don’t think it will (or should) stop the McNairs, though.

    1. Rugger9:

      The McNairs will – and should – proceed. And, as I said before, I suspect that there will be a settlement before this gets to the deposition phase of any civil suit.

  3. I think the dysfunction at Maryland makes the ACC pretty pleased with the departure of the Terps program. It seems almost certain that litigation will soon follow.

    1. Doug:

      Agreed. Given the less-than-wonderful publicity that Syracuse basketball and the UNC academic fraud situation brought to the ACC, they are probably glad to see the Big-10 eat this one.

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