Will Muschamp defends D.J. Durkin, criticizes ESPN report on Maryland's 'toxic culture'

Henry Bushnell
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was D.J. Durkin’s boss at Florida earlier this decade. (Getty)
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was D.J. Durkin’s boss at Florida earlier this decade. (Getty)

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp defended former assistant D.J. Durkin and criticized ESPN for a “lack of journalistic integrity” in its report on the “toxic coaching culture” under Durkin at Maryland.

Durkin, entering his third season with the Terrapins, has come under scrutiny after offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed during a conditioning workout and eventually died. ESPN’s report, released Friday, roughly two months after McNair’s death, detailed horrific and demeaning treatment of players by members of Durkin’s staff.

Muschamp, who employed Durkin as a position coach and defensive coordinator for four years at Florida, questioned the credibility of the report at a news conference on Saturday.

“I know D.J. Durkin,” Muschamp said. “He is an outstanding football coach. He’s also an outstanding husband and a father, and he treats people with respect.”

Muschamp went on to lash out at ESPN, emphasizing the word alleged and then saying: “There’s no credibility in anonymous sources. If that former staffer had any guts, why didn’t he put his name on that? I think that’s gutless.”

Muschamp was likely referring to allegations in the ESPN story such as this one:

A former staff member recalled a time when one player was in a team meeting with food on a plate because he was rushing from a meal to get to the meeting, and [strength and conditioning coach Rick] Court smacked the plate of food out of the player’s hands, yelling at him.

And quotes such as this one:

A former Maryland staff member said: “I would never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there.”

Muschamp also addressed allegations from anonymous players, questioning their veracity and the players’ motives. “In any business, in any company, in any football team, especially right here in August, you can find a disgruntled player that’s probably not playing,” he said. “So I think it’s a lack of journalistic integrity to print things with anonymous sources.”

Of course, there are reasons sources are granted anonymity. Namely, because they fear retribution and are unwilling to expose wrongdoing without anonymity. ESPN likely did extensive fact-checking to ensure the allegations weren’t fabricated. Muschamp, on the other hand, is likely just sticking up for a friend, and attacking the reporting because he doesn’t like what was reported, not because there are actually reasons to believe it’s untrue.

Muschamp said he talked to Durkin Saturday morning, and concluded his answer with another defense of his pal.

“I know D.J. Durkin personally,” he said. “I know what kind of man he is, I know what kind of person he is. … And I don’t think it’s right.”

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