Former Maryland AD used school funds to fight football players' sexual assault allegations

It appears even more shady stuff was happening in the Maryland football program than previously reported. (AP Photo)

Former Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson inappropriately used school funds to pay for the legal defense of multiple football players facing sexual misconduct allegations, according to a statement released by the school on Thursday in response to an initial report from student paper The Diamondback.

Per the statement, Maryland leadership learned in August 2017 that Anderson had hired an attorney for about two months to represent two unnamed football players in a sexual misconduct case and had promised to pay the attorney with money controlled by the athletic department. School president Wallace Loh’s office reportedly first learned of the arrangement when the lawyer submitted an invoice and immediately ordered Anderson to cut ties with the attorney.

The president’s office reportedly learned a month later that Anderson was still retaining the attorney, triggering an internal investigation. The statement described the decision to hire and keep the attorney as a “serious lack of judgement in a sexual misconduct case.”

All of that happened right before Anderson’s mysterious six-month sabbatical in October, which now doesn’t seem to be so mysterious. Anderson eventually announced his resignation in April at the end of the sabbatical.

Lawyers paid with Maryland donor funds

According to a report from The Washington Post, Anderson directed Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin to reach out to Alabama law firm The Sports Group to help the two players fight sexual assault allegations. The firm, which reportedly also represented a Maryland basketball player at the time, was paid $15,000 out of a discretionary account of donor money from the University of Maryland College Park Foundation.

Anderson also reportedly wasn’t very helpful with an investigation from the school’s Title IX office, which often investigates campus sexual assault claims.

Per the report, both players are no longer students at the school. One was reportedly expelled after a hearing held by Maryland, while the other was cleared of wrongdoing, but later opted to leave the school.

Why Maryland can’t pay for its football players’ lawyers

While Maryland’s statements notes that NCAA bylaws allow programs to pay for counsel when a student-athlete’s eligibility is at stake, programs are not allowed to meddle in university investigations of sexual violence accusations involving student-athletes.

From a resolution passed by the NCAA in 2014, 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.

Using booster money to pay for the lawyers of a football player accused of sexual assault would almost certainly break that protocol.

Maryland football sinks even further

While the Ohio State fiasco has rightfully captured headlines across the country, Maryland’s football program has undergone similar disarray as the school investigates the death of Jordan McNair and the toxic culture of the program under Durkin.

Loh said last week that the university had accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for McNair’s death caused by heat stroke in June. Durkin was placed on administrative leave a day after an explosive ESPN report revealed a culture of abuse and humiliation in the program, and the statuses of Durkin, Loh and current athletic director Damon Evans have been up in the air ever since.

It seems this whole episode with Anderson played out well before McNair’s death, but it’s yet another black mark against Durkin for the school’s board of trustees to consider as they continue their investigation into the program.

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