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USM Board of Regents chair Brady resigns amid furor

'We will put some pressure on them' to get answers, says Hogan

James Brady, chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, speaks at a news conference to announce the board's recommendation that football head coach DJ Durkin retain his job, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Baltimore. University of Maryland, College Park President the next day fired Durkin. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

James Brady, chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, speaks at a news conference to announce the board’s recommendation that football head coach DJ Durkin retain his job, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Baltimore. University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh the next day fired Durkin. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Just 24 hours after James Brady told a Baltimore radio station that he believed the controversy over keeping the University of Maryland football team head coach would quickly blow over, the chairman of the Board of Regents resigned.

Brady’s abrupt resignation in Baltimore came hours after Gov. Larry Hogan  told reporters Thursday that he intends to “get to the bottom” of a controversial review of the death of a University of Maryland football player. That review resulted in public and institutional outrage  over the retirement of the president of the University of Maryland, College park and the board’s recommendation to retain football head coach DJ Durkin.

Hogan, speaking to reporters in West Baltimore, said he deliberately stayed out of a review of the death of Jordan McNair by the 17-member University System of Maryland Board of Regents, a majority of whom — including Brady — have been appointed by Hogan.

“The reason why is you’re not supposed to interject politics into this,” Hogan said. “The governor, the legislature have no role whatsoever. They’re a completely autonomous body. They’re set up that way on purpose to remove themselves from politics. But now, after they’ve made their decision and gone through their deliberations, I think I have the right on behalf of Maryland taxpayers to question their decision. But for me to interfere with the ongoing decision with that would be totally inappropriate.”

Hogan later declared that while he didn’t have a lot of information on how the board arrived at its recommendations, “I think we’re in a better place than we were yesterday.”

Hogan is part of a chorus of voices both at the University of Maryland and in state politics who are raising questions about how the regents handled the review of McNair’s death and the recommendations that university Athletic Director Damon Evans and Durkin be retained.

“I was shocked and disgusted by the decision of the regents, and I have no idea how they arrived at their recommendations from the very beginning,” said Hogan. “We’ve called for a thorough review of this entire process because there hasn’t been much transparency. We don’t really know what happened. We don’t have any information about the deliberations back and forth between the 17 members of the Board of Regents and the president and the discussion they had.”

Those recommendations resulted in University of Maryland President Wallace Loh tendering his resignation effective at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year. Loh had previously recommended that Durkin be fired. In a surprise move late Wednesday afternoon, Loh announced that he ignored the board’s recommendation to retain Durkin and instead fired the head coach.

The regents, in a statement posted on the USM website Thursday, said they would accept Loh’s decision. They also pledged to work with state leaders on any oversight hearings and with university officials to reform the medical model in place to protect the health of student athletes.

In his separate statement, Brady said he was “proud of the seriousness” with which the board handled the review of McNair’s death.

“And I respect the many people – including elected leaders, members of the public and members of the board – who disagreed with the recommendations a majority of this board ultimately made,” said Brady in his statement. “These were difficult decisions, based on information included in reports stemming from two investigations and a great deal of thought and deliberation.”

“I understand that reasonable people could come to other conclusions.  And even among our board, some did.”

But Brady added that over the last week he had become the public face of the decisions made by the board.

“In my estimation, my continued presence on the board will inhibit its ability to move Maryland’s higher education agenda forward.  And I have no interest in serving as a distraction from that important work,” wrote Brady. “Accordingly, I will step down from the Board of Regents immediately. ”

Brady stressed that the “board needs to be able to return to the important business of supporting and advancing Maryland’s public university system, for the benefit of its students and families, and of people across the state. ”

Hogan, in a statement released after Brady’s resignation, thanked the outgoing chairman.

“The governor believes that the university system must move forward in an open and transparent manner to restore public trust in Maryland’s flagship university,” said Amelia Chassé, Hogan’s spokeswoman.

Earlier in the day, Comptroller Peter Franchot described the actions of the regents in the McNair reviews as meddlesome and damaging to the reputation of the state and the university.

“They obviously made a huge error in judgement, and in particular with the football coach, and damaged the reputation of the state,” said Franchot. “Hopefully they will start by at least agreeing that they have a problem.”

On Wednesday, Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said she would hold hearings on the matter. She suggested legislation could be forthcoming, a possibility that was downplayed by Franchot.

“I don’t think it’s something we need to wring our hands over and re-write the laws,” said Franchot.

Other lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, called for an effort to convince Loh to rescind his resignation.

When asked if he wanted to see Loh remain at the university, Hogan told reporters: “I think that’s one of the things we’re going to have to take a look at.”

Ben Jealous, the Democratic Party nominee for governor, called on Hogan to fire Brady, who was appointed to the position after serving as the chairman of the governor’s 2014 transition team.

“How can we now trust the top official overseeing the entire university system, Board of Regents Chair Jim Brady?” Jealous said in a statement released Wednesday night. “If he could not lead the Regents to the correct decision in this case, then he is simply not able to lead our state’s public institutions of higher learning. If Larry Hogan believes his Board of Regents chair made a mistake when it came to ensuring the safety of our student athletes, then how can he in good conscience leave Brady in power? The governor absolutely has the power to remove his appointee from the Board of Regents and should do so immediately.”

Hogan, in a Thursday morning interview on WBAL radio, chided Jealous for not understanding how state government works. The Republican incumbent said he did not have the ability to simply fire members of the board.

Speaking to reporters more than hour later in front of Union Baptist Church, Hogan said he intended to hold the board accountable for its decisions.

“We’re going to find out more about what happened in the process,” said Hogan. “We will put some pressure on them.”

“We can ask for people’s resignations at some point if we feel that’s the proper step,” said Hogan. “The last thing we’re going to do is to try to politicize the process four days before an election and try to play politics, as some people are.”

Amid the furor, the regents called a hastily arranged meeting Thursday afternoon at the University System of Maryland’s Baltimore headquarters.

Brady immediately moved the meeting into closed session, which lasted about two hours. No regents spoke while leaving the meeting. An hour later Brady’s resignation was announced via a news release.

Business reporter Tim Curtis contributed to this story.




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