Altercation between Maryland players breaks out at practice in wake of Durkin drama

The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

In the wake of University of Maryland football coach DJ Durkin’s brief reinstatement Tuesday, discord over the football program erupted in an altercation between team players.

Matt Barber

Matthew Barber, a 21-year-old backup punter, who has spoken out against the culture of the program, says he was assaulted at the end of practice Tuesday by a fellow player who supported Durkin.

The player he accused has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Baltimore Sun.

A source close to the athletic program who did not have permission to speak about the situation confirmed that there was an altercation. Multiple sources close to the team also confirmed that they had been alerted to the altercation.

Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said in a statement: “We take any matters involving physical altercations extremely seriously. We are talking with the players involved and will take appropriate actions based on the facts.”

Barber from Mechanicsburg: Barber, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., said word had gotten around on the team that he is a “whistle-blower” who talked to investigators about problems on the team. When Durkin returned to practice Tuesday to watch the team practice, his supporters on the team felt emboldened and began taunting Barber, he said. Some mocked and insulted him, while others threw footballs at him, Barber said.

Toward the end of the practice, another player attacked Barber, attempting to punch him in the face, Barber said. While the two teammates were fighting, others tried to intervene and grabbed Barber’s arms behind his back, he said. That allowed the other player to punch Barber repeatedly in the face, leaving him with a black eye, needing multiple stitches on his forehead and a dislocated shoulder, Barber said.

“My jersey was bloody,” Barber says. “I had blood all over my hands.”

The University of Maryland Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.

Durkin was fired by University of Maryland President Wallace Loh on Wednesday, one day after the university system’s Board of Regents reinstated the embattled coach.

The attack: The attack happened around 6 p.m. Tuesday as practice was ending, according to Barber. Barber said he was treated by the athletic trainers for his injuries, and was interviewed by a campus police officer. He said he has “many mixed emotions” after being attacked. “I’m annoyed, frustrated, upset, irritated,” he said.

When he spoke to The Sun on Wednesday evening, Barber’s arm was in a sling and his head was bandaged.

Malcolm P. Ruff, a lawyer at the firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, said his client was targeted over his whistle-blowing.

“This young man had the courage to stand up,” Ruff said. “He became a target.”