Ex-Maryland Terrapins football players Gus Little, E.J. Donahue have lawsuit settled after abuse claims during DJ Durkin's tenure

Heather DinichESPN Senior Writer2 Minute Read

Two former Maryland football players settled a lawsuit for $200,000 each after accusing former Terrapins coach DJ Durkin of subjecting them to a toxic, abusive culture, according to a report on Thursday in The Washington Post.

Former Terps linebacker Gus Little and offensive lineman E.J. Donahue reached an agreement with the Maryland Attorney General's Office last month, according to the Post. It was the last legal challenge resulting from the death of former Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair, whose death from heatstroke on June 13, 2018, prompted separate investigations into Durkin's program.

In January, the university agreed to a settlement totaling $3.5 million with his parents, Marty McNair and Tonya Wilson.

The players' lawsuit was filed against the school in August 2019 and named Durkin as a defendant, along with former strength and conditioning coach Rick Court and former head athletic trainer Wes Robinson.

According to the Post, the state of Maryland, on behalf of the university, settled the case on behalf of each defendant. The school admitted no wrongdoing, according to the Post.

Maryland athletic director Damon Evans did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Questions surrounding McNair's death began after an Aug. 10, 2018, ESPN report in which several Maryland football players and people close to the program described a coaching culture based on fear and intimidation under Durkin. The allegations centered around Durkin and Court, who was one of Durkin's first hires at Maryland in January 2016 and resigned on Aug. 14, 2018.

The reported incidents of extreme verbal abuse, using food punitively and commonly belittling and humiliating players prompted two lengthy external investigations into Maryland's football program. The findings concluded that members of Maryland's athletic training staff failed to quickly diagnose and properly treat McNair's heatstroke symptoms.

According to a copy of the complaint obtained by ESPN, Donahue and Little accused Durkin of "constant, inescapable physical, emotional, and psychological abuse." The complaint alleges that Donahue and Little were "singled out by the coaching staff as targets for abuse, punishment, and humiliation that ultimately caused them severe and long-lasting mental and physical injury."

"Working in tough environments is one thing, and being coached hard is one thing," Little told the Post on Thursday. "But what we went through at Maryland was not that at all. It was definitely toxic and crazy. It was verbal, mental and psychological abuse on a lot of different levels."

Durkin, who was ultimately fired at Maryland, has been the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Ole Miss since 2020.

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