Kevin Carter On DJ Durkin, Maryland: Kids Can't Die In Service To Your Program

Player safety isn't a perfect science, Kevin Carter says, which is why coaches must be mindful of the type of program they run

The DA Show
October 30, 2018 - 9:00 am

USA Today Images

Maryland football coach DJ Durkin has been placed on paid administrative leave, this after reports of player abuse within his program that could have led to the June death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died of heat exhaustion.

“It’s one of those freak things that, God forbid, you hope never happens and never visits your program,” former All-American, All-Pro and Super Bowl champion Kevin Carter said on The DA Show. “It’s something that’s always a threat. It’s always something that can happen. It’s why we put so much emphasis on our training staff and that of our coaches and the qualifications that they have. All of those things are going to come into question. It’s just par for the course. You can’t have a child lose their life in service of your program, earning his scholarship, paying his way through school, making a memory there – and not have the kind of repercussions that are coming. 

“Being objective, it’s hard to directly blame him necessarily,” Carter continued, referring to Durkin, “but being the head coach of a major college football program, that responsibility and that emphasis falls on your shoulders to run the right kind of program. Who’s to blame? Who’s to say that it wasn’t a freak accident and wouldn’t have happened anyway? These things do happen. Football is a violent sport, and the training for it is intense. You must acclimate your body to heat, and you must push it beyond anything normal in our society, and sometimes that process of making a player toughened up, so to speak, goes awry. And when it does, it’s really a shame, but that scrutiny will come down on DJ Durkin and how he runs his program and who he employs to take care of his players.”

DA wondered if coaches have fully bought in to player safety and the perils of heat exhaustion, or if spillover remains from previous generations about what is acceptable on a practice field.

“There’s always that leftover aspect because you’re always thinking, ‘What are we doing now that we haven’t been doing that we did years ago that made us great? And how can we circumvent the process of gaining toughness and acclimating ourselves better than our opponents?’” Carter said. “If you’re someone like Maryland, you’re trying to climb the ladder in the Big Ten. You’re one of those lower-tier teams, and you have to find an advantage. Most times, teams try to do it through just how they are – their identity, their toughness, who they are on a down-in, down-out basis. Gaining that type of toughness means you have to train harder. In doing that and trying to find that advantage, sometimes you go overboard. That’s going to happen.”

Durkin is 10-15 at Maryland, which has finished with a losing record in nine of the last 14 seasons, including three straight. 

Durkin wanting to improve the program is understandable; some of the methods he allegedly employed are not.

“It’s one of those things that you can’t really point a finger at and you can’t say that this is something that due to the evolution of football and the evolution of man – players are bigger, stronger and faster than they were,” Carter said. “We are smarter from a standpoint of knowing what guidelines to set that are necessary in providing a safe environment for players to acclimate and to get in shape and to condition. But it doesn’t mean that it’s a perfect science. We still see kids having problems from heat exhaustion.”

The weather, of course, also plays a role in heat exhaustion.

“It is getting hotter,” Carter said. “The weather is changing. You used to be able to time the weather up. Every day at 4 in the afternoon in Florida, it was going to rain. That’s not the case anymore. The weather is weird. You have to adjust with that. And in adjusting with that over time, due to the actual severity of the game, it’s one of those things that’s going to take some growing pains. This is not a perfect science, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon.”