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Penn State v Maryland Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“A few major donors have called me,” one longtime booster said. “They’ve all expressed that basically DJ is getting made to hang out to dry and that some of these so-called athletes are looking for participation trophies. Life is not about participation. It’s about learning life skills. DJ has been a great teacher of those.”

We’ll get to that quote in a minute. First it should be made clear: Not everything is going to be out and clear and public about the budding Maryland scandal yet. A player died in workouts. An ESPN report detailed a culture of abuse at the program. The university, after two months or so, publicly took responsibility for the player’s death.

The first is part is tragic. The second part is predictable. The third is legit astonishing — even with a cold, unfeeling delay — given how hard programs fight to avoid legal liability at all. UCF football player Ereck Plancher died in workouts in 2008. The university fought the case for nine years, did legal backflips to dismiss all substantial claims against UCF, and stalled like mad before finally paying the family a statute-limited $200,000 settlement in 2017.

That quote from a Maryland booster, though? That is pretty clear enough all by itself. Care to sift through all those red flags of one malicious idiot shoving bad-faith garbage into the waiting maw of a hungry and listening moron-goat? Let’s do that right quick.

It’s an anonymous quote from someone with actual power in this situation. Not to pile too hard on the already lumped-up Will Muschamp, but all anonymous quotes are not equal. Players and other sources might be quoted anonymously for fear of retribution. A booster or someone who writes checks makes a quote anonymously is doing it because they want to say some rank pissy bullshit in public, but don’t want pay the costs of actually saying it.

It’s someone using the phrase “so-called.” If you’re not familiar with the term, someone using “so-called” is the rhetorical equivalent of spotting a red hour glass on the back of a spider. If it bites you, it will send you to the hospital infected by a very virulent form of stupid. This person is a bad trial lawyer or a con man or both. Toss them in the trash, especially if they use theatrical finger-quotes in person.

Regarding “participation trophies”: see previous statement. It’s a prime-usage term for rage farmers and moron ranchers. Toss them out of the bar the minute someone uses this, because they are too stupid or disingenuous to have a good time.

“It’s about learning life skills” is the final straw here because it’s what we keep running up against whenever a football coach whose job is winning football games is caught doing something dodgy in order to win football games. Suddenly, a portal to the heavens opens. A chorus starts, and a scroll is unspooled listing all the types of authority figure-type things a football coach actually is. They are a father, a mother, a bitch, a lover. They are life coaches, moral arbiters, talent evaluators, and even agents for players who actually don’t need agents, because why would they need those? Players have a coach, and that coach can be whatever we need them to be (so long as it does not compromise their liability, ability to win, or the university’s vulnerability to legal damages.)

Oh, and to the conclusion that there is something lacking in these athletes? That they have not answered the challenge issued to them by a demanding staff? Just this question: When did football stop being enough of a challenge all by itself? To the point that this person, so brave they sit as a longtime donor/booster to a program but still feel the need to invoke the anonymity afforded to whistleblowers in slagging their own student-athletes? It’s football. That’s hard enough.

And why are they mounting this kind of defense in the first place? Not because of D.J. Durkin. He’s just a circumstance here. They’re doing that to defend power in place, even at the smallest levels, the kind of power that in most college football programs that is hidden behind booster orgs, athletic foundations, and sheer numbers. If someone believes for an instant that there exists too small and shoddy a boot to lick blindly in the name of power, consider this: Someone wants you to blindly defer to power for Maryland football.