The University of Maryland football team allowed FOX 5 to watch a portion of the team’s practice Wednesday, one day after the school apologized and accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes its athletic staff made surrounding the death of Jordan McNair.
The 19-year-old offensive lineman was hospitalized on May 29 and later died on June 13 following a strenuous offseason workout.
The university is now making an effort to be more transparent as they held an open practice Wednesday, providing a firsthand look at some of the changes they have made since McNair's death.
The most notable difference was two cooling stations on the practice field. Interim head coach Matt Canada said their practices have been less than two hours and the players get two breaks. Even been between drills, coaches were encouraging players to get some water.
Canada addressed the media publicly for the first time since taking over for DJ Durkin, who was placed on administrative leave on Saturday. He said Mason Baggett is taking over as strength and conditioning for Rick Court, who resigned Tuesday.
The interim coach said they are pulling medical staff from all parts of their athletic department, and even outside the department, to make sure players get the best care on and off the field.
“We have water, Gatorade, snacks in the breaks – all those things,” said Canada. “I think our practices have been extremely crisp. The focus of our players’ health and safety is number one.”
Canada said he has talked to Durkin and has offered his support during this challenging time. He has met with the team's players to let them know they can come to him with any concerns and told them he operates under an open-door policy.
He also said the coaching staff will be meeting with parents on Saturday during a team scrimmage to address their concerns.
“Our culture right now is great," Canada said. "Our culture right now is awesome. Our kids are excited to practice, excited to play. They are loving each other. At times, are we grieving for Jordan? We are. But our culture is really, really good and our staff is working to continue to make it better.”
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh said he personally apologized to the McNair family and said a final report detailing the investigation into the teen’s death would be available by mid-September.
Billy Murphy, an attorney representing the family, said the preliminary death certificate showed "symptoms of heatstroke are present." Murphy has called for Durkin to be fired after he was placed on leave.