As steady readers know, my daughter is considering the U of Maryland for her graduate work in library science. Because I’ve tried to pay less attention to the news over my time off, I was unaware of the recent horror show regarding the Terrapin football team, where a 19-year-old player died of heat stroke during conditioning in late May. Now ESPN appears to have uncovered a culture of abuse within the Terrapin program. Various members of the coaching and training staff have been placed on administrative leave, and it’s quite likely that at the least, firings (and lawsuits) will follow.
The Full Metal Jacket theory of coaching has a lengthy pedigree, with legendary cases including Bear Bryant’s “Junction Boys” at Texas A&M and the “Thin Thirty” at my beloved U of KY. More recently, such coaches as Illinois’s Tim Beckman and Texas Tech’s Mike Leach (now at Washington State) have been canned for improper treatment of their players. But even by these standards, ESPN’s account of the goings-on in College Park is horrifying:
Over the past several weeks, two current Maryland players, multiple people close to the football program, and former players and football staffers spoke to ESPN about the culture under Durkin, particularly strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, who was one of Durkin’s first hires at Maryland in 2015. Among what they shared about the program:
- There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. In one example, a player holding a meal while in a meeting had the meal slapped out of his hands in front of the team. At other times, small weights and other objects were thrown in the direction of players when Court was angry.
- The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. In one example, a player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars as he was made to watch teammates working out.
- Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. Players are routinely the targets of obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity when they are unable to complete a workout or weight lift, for example. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.
- Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively; for example, a player said he was forced to overeat or eat to the point of vomiting.
This brings us to our QotD, from Margaret Soltan, proprietor of University Diaries (and someone whose spouse works at the U of MD):
It’s a mad mad mad mad world. Over in the shabby humanities buildings they’re committing seppuku if they fail even for a moment to use scrupulously sensitive, politically correct, language; in the sports palaces, they’re getting in front of 19-year-olds’ faces and spitting pussy and faggot and fucker and shit and bitch at them while making them run on a hot field until one of them actually dies from the abuse.
But routine reality at many of America’s big-time sports universities.