By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

As the University of Maryland (UMD) prepares for its first spring football practice since the passing of Jordan McNair, the students in College Park continued to honor their fallen classmate by raising money for the foundation that bears his name.

Sunday dinner for many undergrads last weekend at the Chipotle near campus in Laurel benefitted the Jordan McNair Foundation thanks to a fundraiser that was vigorously supported by members of the UMD Student Government Association (SGA). The rather impromptu event continues to keep McNair’s presence alive while the school, students and community try and make something positive out of the tragic and controversial loss of the former offensive lineman.

University of Maryland students, athletes, fans and supporters thronged to a Chipotle near campus, where 33 percent of proceeds from 5-9 p.m. were donated to the Jordan McNair Foundation, named in honor of the 19-year-old freshman who died due to heat exhaustion after the former football administration’s negligence during a practice last June. (Courtesy Photo)

The 19-year old former student athlete passed away last June after the University admitted negligence by the former coaching and training staff failed to give him the proper treatment in the early stages of heat stroke. The specifics of his death never materialized until national media reports uncovered what was called a “toxic” culture created by former coach D.J. Durkin and his deposed strength and conditioning coach Rick Court.

McNair’s death, cover-up and the University’s initial reaction may prove to be the biggest embarrassment in the school’s history. However, if there is a silver lining to the lingering cloud that hovers over the athletic program, it is that it has brought national scrutiny to college athletic programs around the country. Maryland’s SGA has also been active in holding the administration accountable which the student body has largely bought into.

Last May the SGA also organized a protest when the Board of Regents initially decided that Durkin could retain his job. They bombarded the administration building with a passionate disobedience that spurred the school to rethink its position on Durkin and led to the resignation of several people who held positions on the Board.

McNair’s parents, Martin McNair and Tonya Wilson, established the Jordan McNair Foundation to help prevent heatstroke and heat-related illness in student athletes by educating them, their parents and the football community about the symptoms and how to treat them. An investigation revealed that if McNair had received immediate cool down treatments as simple, as an ice bath, it might have saved his life.

Hundreds of guests waited in long lines that stretched outside the popular Mexican fast food restaurant on US Rt. 1 and Knox Rd. This very organic fundraiser – that was primarily promoted via flyers throughout campus – saw patrons form lines that extended beyond the building’s doors between 5-9pm. Several of McNair’s former teammates joined student leaders for a meal and a pause for reflection. There were streams of student, alumni, fans and guests who visited the establishment which reportedly promised to donate 33 percent of what they generated to the McNair Foundation.

“This is one small part, one small thing that students can do to show their support and just kind of come together as Terps, as a family, because Jordan he was one of us,” said Rohini “Ro” Nambiar, UMD senior and Student Affairs Vice President for the University of Maryland SGA told WTOP-FM in Washington.

She reportedly learned about the fundraiser from a flyer circulated by SGA president Jonathan Allen. Allen also tweeted that 33 percent of the money raised would go directly to the McNair Foundation.

With a new football coach and spring practice coming up the program has begun pressing forward and could be one of the surprise teams next college football season this fall.

However, there has been no reported settlement agreement reached between the McNair family and the University. Both sides have remained silent publicly since Durkin was fired.