Maryland Hires Michael Locksley To Clean Up DJ Durkin’s Mess

Locksley knows about sudden loss, regret, and rebuilding.  He’s been here before. 

The University of Maryland named University of Alabama offensive coordinator Michael Locksley as its head football coach on Tuesday. 

It’s been a great week for Black college coaches being promoted as reports surfaced that Mel Tucker and Colorado are close to signing a deal that would make him the University’s first African-American head coach.

Tucker joins Jon Embree (2011-12) as the only African-American coaches in Colorado Buffaloes history.

Locksley assumes the job at a tumultuous juncture. The University of Maryland’s football program and campus has been in turmoil since Jordan McNair’s death in June. The 19-year-old offensive lineman collapsed from heat stroke after an offseason workout and died two weeks later.

Most of the early blame for the deadly incident fell on former Terrapins HC DJ Durkin for allegedly fostering a toxic culture of intimidation and verbal abuse. It eventually reached as high as the chairman of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents. 

The chaos and indecisiveness at the top turned the Maryland campus into a war zone with students, faculty, friends, and staff divided about the university’s initial decision to reinstate Durkin. There were protests, social media assaults on the school’s good name and a strong public outcry against Durkin’s reinstatement and the underlying racial component that existed.

Temporarily reinstating Durkin was a move that infuriated people of all ethnicities, but deeply wounded the African-American community that was once again reminded that the value of a black life is minimal within the larger scope of NCAA athletics’ business enterprise.

McNair was an example of that expendable piece, dehumanized by a system that rotates young black males in and out like a factory line, often leaving them faceless and nameless — just apart of the machine. Students, family and the social media moshpit attacked Maryland with the fury of Greek Gods raining down misfortune upon humans who lack heart, character and basic decency.

In a news release, Director of Athletics Damon Evans said Locksley stood out as a candidate because of the role he plays to student-athletes.

“As we narrowed the search for the individual best suited to lead our program, Michael not only stood out for his talent as a coach but most importantly for the role he has played as a mentor to student-athletes throughout his career and his deep commitment to helping them grow into leaders on and off the field,” said Evans.

This kind of rebuild — or more appropriately — healing process requires an individual with special experiences. Locksley has been here before. He knows about tragic and sudden loss, regret, rebuilding, and resilience.

Locksley along with his wife Kia have four children, three sons, Mike, Jr., Meiko, and Kai, and a daughter, Kori. On September 3, 2017, Meiko was fatally shot in Columbia, Maryland. They’ve been able to slowly pick up the pieces and move on despite the pain of the past.

Locksley, a Washington, D.C. native, has over 20 years of coaching experience, including two separate stints at Maryland, totaling 10 years with the Terps. Locksley may not be a familiar name to NFL fans but Locksley’s work as Offensive Coordinator at defending National Champion Alabama this season earned him earned him the 2018 Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach.

Locksley Jr., a graduate of Towson State in 1991, has also served in various coaching capacities at Florida, Army, Illinois and as a head coach at New Mexico.

Lockley must navigate this fragile period where the memory of Jordan McNair is still fresh in the minds of everyone. He must rebuild the trust and improve the program’s culture moving forward.  A culture revamping that will not only reverse Durkin’s 10-15 record in two tumultuous years the helm but put the welfare of the student-athlete first. 

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