Maryland released a statement on Thursday saying that former Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson inappropriately used school funds to pay for the legal defense of two football players facing sexual assault allegations.
However, the attorney who represented the two players told the Baltimore Sun that he was hired by head coach D.J. Durkin, and had “very minimal contact” with Anderson throughout the entire process.
Donald Jackson, a lawyer with The Sports Group who represented the two football players, said that he only became involved in the football players’ case because he was working on a different eligibility case involving a member of the men’s basketball team.
“I literally walked from the basketball arena over to the football office and sat for the remainder of the evening in the football office,” Jackson told the Baltimore Sun. “My assumption was that everything had gone through channels and it was approved because I don’t even know how the football coaches knew I was even on campus involved in another case.”
Jackson had worked with Durkin and the football team before — having helped a player who transferred in the previous year retain his eligibility.
One month after taking over the new case, though, Jackson said he received an email from Anderson that said “moving forward, the athletic department will not pay you for any services pertaining to [the athletes.]” He was essentially being fired.
Did the athletic department know that Jackson was still representing the athletes?
Even though Jackson received the email from Anderson firing him, he did not quit representing the two football players.
He had an ethical obligation to meet.
“At that point, I’ve got these two clients that I have an ethical and moral obligation to work on their behalf,” Jackson told the Baltimore Sun. “Am I going to walk off midstream and not represent these kids? The answer is, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ I continued to process. I continued to work. So I continued to work and I completed the process.”
The athletic department, though, claimed on Friday that it did not know Jackson continued to represent the football players after that point.
“The issue is not whether the email was sent,” a university spokeswoman told the Baltimore Sun. “It was that the [attorney’s] work did not stop and it was not reported back to the university that the work did not stop.”
Anderson had taken his mysterious sabbatical and resigned before the case concluded, and was replaced by executive athletic director Damon Evans.
Maryland said in a statement on Thursday night that Evans only learned of the arrangement when he found an invoice from Jackson that had not been paid, and claimed he immediately notified Maryland president Wallace D. Loh, and severed ties.
Jackson, though, told the Baltimore Sun that he is “surprised the university is not finding Evans culpable.”
“I find it virtually impossible to believe that Damon Evans was not aware that I was representing these football student-athletes, either that day or immediately following that,” Jackson told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s not like I was walking around the University of Maryland campus under the cloak of darkness with a mask on. I was on that campus several times.”
Where was the money coming from?
Initially, Jackson was being paid from the athletic department.
When he received the email from Anderson firing him, Jackson had already been paid $15,000 out of a discretionary account of donor money.
Jackson, though, didn’t think that’s where the money came from.
“I was under the impression it was coming from the football budget because D.J. was the person that I worked with as far structuring all of this,” Jackson told the Baltimore Sun. “Kevin was not involved in any of this. I had periodic contact with Kevin about the basketball player’s case and that’s all. There was fairly infrequent contact on that case.”
Can Maryland pay for its football players’ lawyers?
In this case, no.
NCAA bylaws permit programs to pay for legal counsel when a student-athlete’s eligibility is at stake. However, universities are not allowed to interfere with investigations into sexual violence accusations involving student-athletes.
[Athletic departments must] cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere with college or university investigations into allegations of sexual violence ensuring that investigations involving student-athletes and athletics department staff are managed in the same manner as all other students and staff on campus.
Where does this leave D.J. Durkin, Maryland?
Durkin is still on administrative leave following a reports detailing a “toxic culture” in his football program and the investigation into the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair — who died in June of heat stroke while at a team workout. Loh said last week that Maryland has accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for McNair’s death.
While this happened before McNair’s death, it certainly doesn’t help the Maryland athletic department — especially because, after Jackson’s interview with the Baltimore Sun, it appears Maryland’s statement on Thursday either wasn’t accurate or wasn’t truthful about who hired and paid for the attorney to represent the football players.
Either way, it’s not a good look for an athletic department involved in multiple scandals and an investigation into the football program.
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