Univ of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh - Thank You

Univ of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh - Thank You

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Univ of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh - Thank You

In accepting legal and moral responsibility for the tragic death of former Maryland football player Jordan McNair, university president Wallace D. Loh exhibits a lost art in America today – accountability, showing true compassion, and illustrating real leadership during a time that is as difficult as possible.

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Unless you have experienced the tragedy of your child dying, it’s impossible to relate to what the parents of Jordan McNair have experienced since the tragic death of their son, the former Maryland football player who died in the hospital not long after collapsing and suffering from heatstroke during an off-season workout.

For a moment, let’s forget about the reports of the alleged toxic culture that includes allegations of bullying, intimidation, unnecessary denigration of players, and just general ugliness within the Maryland football program.

Instead, let’s just say this:

University of Maryland President, Wallace D. Loh – thank you.

The way in which this man addressed the media yesterday – within the context of the worst scenario possible – might give some of us hope that there may be some actual adults around still.

His words should ring out for everyone and his measured, rational, and responsible approach to how the university will go forward are all examples for everyone in positions of leadership.

A person died in the care of the University of Maryland and, more specifically, in the care of the Maryland football program.

And it’s important to acknowledge that the president is correctly careful to differentiate the practices of the training and medical staff from the coaching staff in his address since the two practices represent two very different things.

However, his unequivocal way of making it as clear as possible that the University of Maryland accepts legal and moral responsibility is inspiring, even in the darkest of moments for the family of McNair and the entire Maryland community.

“No Maryland student athlete will ever be in a situation where his or her life and safety and life will ever be at risk – especially when that risk is foreseeable.  I made that commitment to them (Jordan McNair’s parents), I’m making it now to all of our student athletes of the University of Maryland community, to all of the people of America.”

Those last few words are particularly compelling – “…to all of the people of America.”

This is a man standing up and addressing the problem, speaking in front of the nation and his university community, not running and hiding, not looking for the nearest scapegoat to blame, and not doing anything other than accepting responsibility and explaining how he plans to rehabilitate things.

He addresses the media component of this in a way that illustrates sophistication rather than tone deaf bullheadedness when he says, in referring to the reports about the alleged “toxic” environment within the Maryland football program, “We learned of the allegations through the media – but regardless of the source, what is important is how we address it.”

His approach to handling the allegations regarding the school’s football program might come across as alien to far too many leaders across the nation who are so anxious to avoid responsibility, blame others, and even ignore the problems that are impossible to ignore.

“We are guided by certain key values – accountability of all employees, of transparency, and, yes, of fair process,” says Loh.

Yes, he’s stating that a fair process must be followed.

But he’s not shirking the obvious need to look into what’s happened.

It shouldn’t be necessary but we’ll provide another reminder – the son of two parents whose lives won’t ever be the same is dead.

“These are allegations – but we must take them seriously.  And what fair process demands is that we do a throough investigation by an independent group and they make recommendations and we implement those recommendations and we will monitor the new implementations of those recommendations.”

Loh goes on to name the four specific people who will investigate the entire tragedy.

He provides their credentials.

And while he doesn’t provide the specific name since the agreement has not been finalized , he says that a “highly respected, retired head football coach and also athletic director” will be a part of the investigative unit.

This won’t be an in-house job designed to sweep the mess under the carpet.

There isn’t any escaping the tragic nature of what’s happened here.

Jordan McNair’s life was taken away from him and nothing will ever change that.

But the University of Maryland’s president – and the school’s new athletic director, Damon Evans – has given some of us reason to think that there are some people who still believe in decency and compassion and accountability and responsibility.

If that’s one thing that Jordan McNair has given us through this horrific tragedy, then his life will be forever meaningful and inspirational.

And he will have given us reason to maintain at least a bit of faith and hope in our leaders.

 

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