The University of Maryland has had a week to forget, but hopefully no one ever lets them. After reinstating head football coach D.J. Durkin for one day before firing him, the chair of the board of regents announced his own resignation. The university president had already announced his impending retirement when he fired Durkin, over the recommendation of the board.
All of this, of course, stems from the death of Jordan McNair, how his treatment was handled by the coaching staff, and an investigation that revealed plenty more wrong with the program. If you needed further proof as to the toxicity of the culture, today offered it, as backup punter Matt Barber alleged he was assaulted for speaking out against Durkin.
From the Baltimore Sun:
Barber, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., said word had gotten around on the team that he was a “whistle-blower” who talked to investigators about problems on the team. When Durkin returned to practice Tuesday to watch the team practice, his supporters on the team felt emboldened and began taunting Barber, he said. Some mocked and insulted him, while others threw footballs at him, Barber said.
Toward the end of the practice, Barber said, Lees attacked him, attempting to punch him in the face. While the two teammates were fighting, others intervened, trying to break up the fight and grabbed Barber’s arms behind his back, he said. That allowed Lees to punch Barber repeatedly in the face, leaving him with a black eye, needing multiple stitches on his forehead and a dislocated shoulder, Barber said.
“My jersey was bloody,” Barber said. “I had blood all over my hands.”
Whoa, that sounds awful, doesn’t it? Some outlets ran with that narrative, because it’s too perfect under the circumstances; here’s a player being physically attacked for his willingness to speak out against the poor and endangering treatment of players in the program. Except the player Barber accused, fellow punter Wade Lees, had a much different version of events:
My Statement!! pic.twitter.com/0chnHYwuaO
— Wade Lees (@WL_88) November 1, 2018
And other players were pretty quick to jump in to side with Lees, including Ellis McKennie, whose tweet in opposition of Durkin went viral earlier in the week:
This is a lie. https://t.co/SVbQv488B6
— Ellis McKennie (@emck_cubed97) November 1, 2018
This is absolutely fake. kids lying out his mouth, this altercation had nothing to do with the coach Durkin situation had everything to do with him picking on a younger players. There were many witnesses and wade has the total support of everyone here https://t.co/bnPhj8CKfw
— Os3h $ain3 (@Oseh11) November 1, 2018
All 100+ players are behind this man. He was standing up for younger teammates who were being ridiculed and bad mouthed. Do not always believe what you see on Social Media. The truth always wins. #FakeNews https://t.co/BXjVpc7u3F
— Jake Funk (@jakefunk34) November 1, 2018
There were plenty along those lines, but this tweet from kicker Mike Shinsky went way beyond just the events that led to the alleged fight:
Matt Barber is a pathological liar. He has tried to fight multiple players on the team, has taken pictures of teammates changing, has spit on multiple teammates, and he and his father even blackmailed UMD coach’s with fake allegations. These can be verified by multiple witnesses
— mike shinsky (@MikeShinsky) November 1, 2018
Shinsky also retweeted McKennie’s viral tweet a few days ago. However, it does seem like a pretty big coincidence that a fight like this would break out now and have absolutely nothing to do with the Durkin situation. That’s not to say Barber is or isn’t telling the truth, although the willingness of so many of his teammates to immediately denounce his account does seem telling.
It’s possible it’s just indirectly related. This has to have been an incredibly emotional week on top of an even more emotional year for Maryland players. Maybe it was just the breaking point for someone who was tired of putting up with a teammate’s shit. Or maybe not! Again, no one really knows yet. Maybe we’ll find out eventually.
Meanwhile, Maryland is also facing a review of their accreditation status over this entire dismaying display, and while nothing is likely to come of that, it certainly speaks volumes to how uniquely bad a situation this is.
— Dan Kane (@dankanenando) November 1, 2018
But hey, the Terps are back in action this weekend against Michigan State! That’s what’s most important, according to just about every action the school has taken since McNair’s death.