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Maryland fires athletic trainers who have been on leave in wake of Jordan McNair death

Maryland fires athletic trainers who have been on leave in wake of Jordan McNair death

Wes Robinson, left, shown in February with Maryland quarterbacks Kasim Hill, center, and Tyrrell Pigrome. (Doug Kapustin / For The Washington Post)

The University of Maryland fired two high-ranking athletic trainers whose actions had come into the wake of Jordan McNair's death in June.

Steve Nordwall, assistant athletic director of athletic training, and Wes Robinson, the head trainer for the football program, had been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 10. Both were informed that their employment had been terminated, according to a person familiar with the situation.

On Wednesday, the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents' newly elected chair group was wrong in its actions and recommendations. Linda R. Gooden said in a statement that the board has "lost sight of its responsibility to the university system" and apologized "to the McNair family, the University of Maryland, the College Park community, and to the citizens of our state."

Gooden replaces James T. Brady, who resigned last week amid controversy about the board's recommendations. Among other things, the school recommended coach Durkin and, according to two people familiar with the situation, also the two athletic trainers.

A university spokeswoman declined to comment on Robinson and Nordwall because it was a personal matter but said in a statement: "The trainers were not on administrative leave at the university."

Steve Pachman, Robinson's attorney, confirmed in a statement that his client had not been extended by Maryland and that the university said "there is no 'cause" for termination. "Pachman would not comment on a possible settlement between parties.

The departures mean that four people have lost their jobs during the controversy. Durkin was resigned as coach and coach. 13 after negotiating a settlement with the university. In addition, university President Wallace D. Loh announced last week that he would retire in June.

Nordwall and Robinson McNair at the May 29 team workout. Loh, the university president, has apologized for mistakes that resulted in McNair's death, pinning those errors on our athletic training staff, not the coaching staff.

The Terps have shuffled staff and added new athletic trainers to help treat players. Greg Smith, the former head athletic trainer for the Washington Capitals, joined the team around the start of the football season and later added Ben Reisz, who also worked for the Caps.

A commission that the culture of the football program has recommended that Maryland is the model for delivering medical care to athletes. The commission proposed the athletic department to adopt an independent model, which would move the athletic trainers out of the department's umbrella. They'd rather be outside of the athletic department and would report directly to outside supervisors, in theory giving them more autonomy. Loh has indicated that he plans to adopt the measure, even though he nixed a similar proposal in 2017.

McNair suffered from exertional heatstroke during team sprints and died 15 days later. An independent report in the circumstances surrounding his death outlined numerous missteps that were made by the athletic trainers along the way.

According to the Walters report, the independent probe, Nordwall did not report the player's condition to his supervisor, Valerie Cothran, a team physician, until the hour began exhibiting symptoms of heatstroke.

Robinson, the football team's longtime trainer, was on the field as McNair struggled with the sprints. One teammate told investigators that Robinson yelled, "Get him the 'f-up." Another player said Robinson yelled, "Drag his ass off the field."

Robinson had been an athletic trainer at the school since 2006 and had worked with three head coaches in that time. Nordwall came to Maryland in 2014 after 14 years at Eastern Michigan.

Neither has spoken publicly since going on leave in August.

The Walters report also noted that there was no temperature available in McNair's emergency medical services.

Medical experts have said that patients have a 100 percent survival rate when heatstroke is quickly diagnosed and treated promptly. McNair had not been forced into an ambulance until 94 minutes after he had been experiencing symptoms, and according to hospital records, his temperature was not lowered to 102, which is considered a much safer temperature, until nearly 2½ hours after he began experiencing symptoms.

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