Mike Locksley returns home to be Maryland football coach

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Mike Locksley is thrilled to be home.

The Washington native who spent two stints as a Maryland football assistant and also served as the Terrapins‘ interim leader for six games in 2015 was introduced Thursday as the school’s full-time coach.

“This was the job I’ve coveted since the day I put a whistle around my neck as a coach,” said Locksley, the Alabama offensive coordinator who Tuesday was named the winner of the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. “Some people grow up wanting to be the head coach at the University of Alabama, Michigan, all the storied programs. For Locks, this was it.”

Locksley, who turns 49 on Christmas Day, will remain with the top-ranked Crimson Tide through the College Football Playoff.

He is taking over a Maryland program coming off its most tumultuous season in recent memory.

It has been less than six months since the June 13 death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed from heat stroke May 29 during an offseason workout. Former coach D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 11 as investigations were conducted into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death and allegations of bullying and intimidation by coach and one of his assistants.

The governing board for the state university system decided to reinstate Durkin on Oct. 30, a decision that prompted widespread outrage and protests by players. University president Wallace Loh fired Durkin the next day.

Matt Canada served as the team’s interim coach and was credited with keeping the team together under difficult circumstances and he interviewed for the permanent job, but Maryland instead went with Locksley,

The Terps finished the season 5-7, their fourth consecutive losing season and third year in the last four without a postseason appearance.

“This has been a difficult season for our team,” athletic director Damon Evans said. “They deserve someone who can bring us together, someone who understands what they have gone through, someone who can help them continue to heal.”

Enter Locksley, who endured a personal tragedy of his own. His 25-year-old son Meiko was shot and killed Sept. 3, 2017, in Columbia, Maryland.

Locksley also knows McNair’s family; his daughter attended high school with McNair. Martin McNair, Jordan’s father, attended Thursday’s news conference.

“My No. 1 priority and focus will be the health, development and safety as the head of this family,” Locksley said.

Locksley previously worked at Maryland from 1997-2002 as the running backs coach and from 2012-15 as offensive coordinator. He also had stops in between at Florida (2003-04) and Illinois (2005-08).

It is Locksley’s second full-time head coaching job. He had a rocky tenure on and off the field over parts of three seasons at New Mexico, where he was 2-26. He was suspended for one game in 2009 for an altercation with an assistant coach, and was sued for sexual harassment by an administrative assistant. Those claims were later resolved.

Including his six-game stint as Maryland’s interim coach in 2015, he owns a 3-31 career record.

“I’m so far removed from that New Mexico experience — 10 years and two days from when I was introduced there,” Locksley said. “Who I’ve become as a coach and who I’ve become as a person, as everyone else (does), you mature, you grow. I just spent three years saturated in winning under coach Nick Saban and the Alabama football program.”

Maryland’s football program has struggled to gain traction since joining the Big Ten in 2014. The Terps have gone 13-30 in league play in that span, including a combined 3-17 against East Division powers Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.

Locksley possesses a reputation as a strong recruiter, particularly in the Washington area, which made him an ideal candidate after such a difficult season.

“We have one of the best areas in the country for talent, and we’re going to work our tails off to keep it right here,” Locksley said.