University of Maryland accreditation may be jeopardized by response to football player’s death after practice

A sign welcomes visitors to the University of Maryland located in College Park, Maryland.

The University of Maryland College Park’s accreditation could be in jeopardy over lack of proof it is complying with standards a year after a football player died of heatstroke following a preseason practice.

An investigation by The Middle States Commission on Higher Education was prompted by the aftermath of the death of Jordan McNair, 19, commission spokesman Brian Kirschner told CNN Sunday. It is a nongovernmental association recognized by the US Secretary of Education to conduct accreditation activities for institutions of higher education.

McNair died two weeks after taking part in a workout on the school’s outdoor practice field.

In a letter sent to university president Dr. Wallace Loh, the organization said the school would have to host a visit by the commission’s representatives and submit a report by March 2020 to demonstrate that it has achieved and can sustain ongoing compliance. That must include “a clearly articulated and transparent governance structure that outlines roles, responsibilities, and accountability for decision making” and “periodic assessment of the effectiveness of governance, leadership and administration.”

The university received a warning, the least of three levels of noncompliance action. Kirschner said schools given a warning are usually expected to come back into compliance.

The commission could consider Maryland’s accreditation at its June 2020 meeting.

In a statement, Loh and university system officials said they “are committed to working together to ensure that the governance structure clearly specifies the roles, responsibilities, and accountability of each constituency and that these are in full alignment with” the commission.

“Progress towards full compliance is already underway and will be completed by March 1, 2020,” the statement said. The College Park campus remains fully accredited.

Last year, an external review found that an emergency response was not followed in McNair’s case and the care the university provided was not consistent with best practices. McNair’s heat illness was not promptly identified, and athletic training staff did not take his temperature and apply a cold-water immersion treatment, Athletic Director Damon Evans said at the time.

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