Alabama offensive coordinator, and Broyles Award recipient, Mike Locksley was named Maryland’s head football coach on Tuesday, as first reported by Stadium’s Brett McMurphy. Locksley served as the Terps’ interim head coach in 2015, following the firing of Randy Edsall, and was an offensive coordinator for the team from 2012-15 and running backs coach from 1997-2002.
Locksley’s hiring brought excitement to former Terps who were either recruited or coached by him at Maryland. Still, he inherits a team and program that has been marred by the entirely-preventable death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair in August. McMurphy’s report notes that the new coach’s daughter was a high school friend and classmate to McNair, and that Locksley has “experienced tragedy” because his son was murdered earlier this year.
Per the report:
“Mike Locksley not only understands how to win, but he knows how to help Maryland move forward in the wake of the unimaginable,” a source said. “He’s lived it.”
While it’s already a stretch to use either of those examples as proof that Locksley is the right man for the Maryland job at this particular time, McMurphy goes even further and almost completely avoids addressing issues from Locksley’s past that could be seen as potential concerns. McMurphy’s report states:
“Locksley learned a lot about what not to do at New Mexico,” a source close to the search said. “He was a young coach who made mistakes, but has grown from them over the past decade, including three years under one of the most successful college coaches in history, Nick Saban. I would rather have the guy who has fallen and gotten up than one who has never faced adversity.”
If you had just read the Stadium report of this hiring, you’d assume the source was referencing Locksley’s 2-26 record during his tenure at New Mexico. Thankfully, Roman Stubbs and Emily Giambalvo of the Washington Post examined some of the “adversity” the source was referring to, and helped clear things up.
In the spring of 2009, Locksley was slapped with an age and sex discrimination complaint by administrative assistant Sylvia Lopez. She claimed that Locksley told her he wanted younger women in the role to help with recruiting. That claim was later withdrawn. Several months later, in September of that same year, Locksley was accused of punching his assistant, J.B. Gerald, in the face.
“Locksley became upset about [Gerald’s] response to questions concerning a play in [a loss against Air Force] and began shouting at him and other coaches,” according to a lawsuit later filed by Gerald, which also included allegations of a hostile work environment.
Locksley then attacked Gerald, “pinning him to his chair and choking him,” the lawsuit said. Other coaches in the room pulled Locksley and Gerald apart, but while Gerald was restrained, Locksley broke free and struck him in the face several times, according to the lawsuit.
Locksley was suspended for 10 days without pay, and Gerald received a $25,000 settlement. Another notable incident came in July 2010 when he allegedly confronted a student reporter at a local bar and shouted profanities about the media. Right before he was let go, a friend of his son was charged with suspicion of driving while intoxicated in a car that was registered to the coach’s son and wife. The friend was 19 years old at the time.
Given that Maryland chose to reinstate DJ Durkin despite insurmountable evidence that the culture he created for the team was reprehensible beyond reproach, it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise that Athletic Director Damon Evans thought Locksley was worth the risk considering how his issues pale in comparison to what just happened. Evans also likely considered Alabama’s offensive production for this season—47.9 points per game (second nationally), 527.6 yards per game (seventh), 7.92 yards per play (second) and a Heisman candidate at quarterback—Locksley’s popularity among players before leaving after his second stint, and the pressure he received to hire the former Terp, per the Washington Post. Regardless, bringing in a coach with a checkered past after going through the worst scandal in program history is questionable at best. If there’s one thing that Maryland should probably do it’s best to avoid in the near future, it’s more scrutiny.
This is not meant to say that another problem is guaranteed for the immediate future under Locksley, but this search probably should have been handled with a bit more care—something that’s become quite a theme in regards to this program.