A kid died under DJ Durkin's watch. While the University of Maryland certainly did everything under the sun to (1) mismanage its own internal investigation of the downright hostile practice conditions that led to the passing of Terrapins ​football player Jordan McNair and (2) botch every initial decision about the discipline that needed to be handed out to Durkin and associated Terps staffers, sure, yeah, they did eventually decided to fire him after getting universally raked over red-hot coals for a few news cycles.


But Durkin didn't just need to be fired. For contributing to the death of a 19-year-old kid by engineering a dangerous, recklessly harsh football culture that will take years to heal and repair, it's not out of the question that the ousted head coach has criminal liability. And that's why the news that ​he's now working with Nick Saban in a consultant's capacity to help Alabama prepare for the College Football Playoff is such a stunning disgrace.

Jordan McNair's body temperature was 106 degrees when he arrived at the hospital after collapsing at a typically brutal Terps practice. He had suffered heat stroke. He had suffered a seizure. His liver was failing. And it was all essentially the cost of doing business at a football program reduced into a shambling wreck of toxic competitiveness and misplaced testosterone. 


By all accounts, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court was pretty much the devil, but as a member of Durkin's staff, we all know where the buck really stopped. The same can be said for ​the athletic trainers that didn't heed the warning signs that McNair really was suffering from heat-related illness for at least an hour.


On any sane planet, Durkin wouldn't just be out of a job; he would be banned from football and subject to a criminal investigation. He'd be getting sued in civil court for wrongful death. ​Maryland football would be given the death penalty and forced to lay fallow for years. Instead, he's essentially being rewarded, brought back out of shame and shadows and into the light with an assist from Nick Saban, the king of college football.

Being a football coach isn't a right; it's one of the sincerest privileges a state employee can possibly come upon in these United States. And Nick Saban, who clearly has no idea which way is up after ​so many years of bonuses, big wins, outrageous recruiting hauls, and god status in the state of Alabama, has willfully permitted the first step in the professional rehabilitation of DJ Durkin, a man who got paid to put kids' lives in danger.


Saban has so, so much power. He wields incredible influence, perhaps more than any coach in the history of amateur sports outside of Mike Krzyzewski. He's a role model. And the decision to associate with Durkin in any way whatsoever, formal or informal, is pure poison. It's a signal that winning really is all that matters, the optics and the sheer human decency be damned.

I don't think Nick Saban intends to normalize or justify anything that Durkin did. But this situation is still too hot. The wounds are still raw. We're years away from truly being able to reckon with what really happened at College Park and everything that needed to be done to ameliorate the culture and save Jordan McNair's life. 


The big man in Tuscaloosa had no reason to commit this odious blunder. But I fear he's just too singular a force in American sports to ever have to answer for it.