Declan Sullivan incident being forgotten

November 19, 2010 · By · Filed Under Editorials, Football 

Note: This article is an editorial from our head writer.

Since the allegations and inside information started leaking out about Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton, the Declan Sullivan incident has faded from the memory of college football fans. However, I felt like I should write something about this because I think nothing is happening up in Indiana to address this.

Yes, OSHAA is looking into this however it is clear as daylight that several layers of security was completely overlooked in his death. According to the Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick recounted his time at practice that day. He claims that when he was there, it was calm. However, it was known that the winds had been and were currently very gusty in the area as a very powerful low pressure system was moving through the area.

It was Coach Brian Kelly who decided to practice outside on that blustery day. Some in attendance of the practice said that it was very difficult to complete passes with the gusty wind. He should have been mindful enough to get the video cameras down off of the scissor lifts, however he did no such thing. Anyone who has watched Brian Kelly coach gets the sense it’s his way or the highway. He has no visible compassion for his players or his coaches. When the coach has a 5 yard buffer zone on the sidelines at all times, you know there is something about the guy the player and coaches do not like.

The next line of defense would be the equipment manager. As the name implies, he is in charge of all equipment from the footballs, the yard sticks, practice equipment and that would also include the scissor lifts. It is his job to know the safe operation of the equipment. If a graduate assistant, coach or player were on a golf cart and were using it in a manner that was unsafe, it is his responsibility to stop it and prevent it from happening again in the future. In this case, he was supposed to know that the scissor lift is only rated to be used in conditions where wind is speed is less than 25 miles per hour. Also I do not know where the scissor lift was being used, but I would harbor a guess that it is at least recommended if not required to be used on a solid, level area. Something like concrete or asphalt. Thus the equipment manager could have made the call at any time to get Declan and any other video camera operator off of those lifts.

Finally, probably the first line of defense would be the video coordinator. He could have stood up to the coach and told him that he felt it was unsafe for Declan to be up in a scissor lift in the conditions that they were suffering. Video, or football for that matter, is not worth a kids life. Was standing up to Coach Kelly that difficult? Was he afraid for his job? He was the first person in a series of responsible adults who could have avoided this tragedy.

Some people across the nation spoke out by saying that Declan should have refused to go up or got down on his own accord. Some people are mature at 20, others take a little longer. Twenty is an age where we are becoming adults but are still inclined to do some nutty stuff. Kids like Declan typically do what they are told to do, because they have a trust in their superiors that they would not put them into harms way. This trust was clearly broken.

Most kids would opt not to work while going to college. He could have pursued his love of film and video without working for the football team and making money. If he really needed the money to make ends meet while he was studying at Notre Dame, a responsible person would trust their superiors and do what they were told so they could continue their education. So I do not agree with those who would say that he was to blame entirely. I agree he could have came down or refused to go up in the first place. After all he did post the following messages on facebook and twitter: “Gust of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work… I guess I’ve lived long enough :-/.” and the following not long before his tragic death: “Holy f*** holy f*** this is terrifying.”

What I have been saying since shortly after this incident happened and what I continue to proclaim is that Athletic Directory Jack Swarbrick, Head Coach Brian Kelly, the equipment manager and the video coordinator should all be fired. A young life was cut short by complete disregard of duty by people who were in charge. Any one of those four people mentioned could have stopped the incident from happening. Is it the case that three of those four were afraid to stand up to “General” Kelly? Because head coaches have become the equivalent to Gods in some places, are people afraid to stand up to them?

One case in point is TCU and their coach Gary Patterson. Patterson ‘verbally accosted’ a TCU doctor over a player being diagnosed with a concussion. According to the AMA, if a player loses consciousness, he is automatically considered having a concussion. Additionally the player had an unsteady gait and a few memory problems. Which are two diagnosis points for a doctor to determine if a player has a concussion. However, Coach Patterson said that “As far as I’m concerned Wesley was fine 10 minutes after he was hurt.” However the doctor stood up to the coach, and rightfully so in order to protect this players health and potentially his life.

Notre Dame should hold the persons responsible for this tragedy. I would dare say that a fairly strong case could be made that Coach Kelly was guilty of willful negligence which caused a death or  possibly even involuntary manslaughter.

Notre Dame should take action immediately and do the right thing. If all four are not fired, then at a minimum that Athletic Director and the Board of Trustees should step in and get rid of the rest. Kevin McGuire from posted that, according to a source, that a number of boosters pressured the AD to ask Kelly for his resignation. Then as many as 20 boosters asked Swarbrick and Kelly both for their resignations. Additionally, Notre Dame examiner Shawn Lewallen also posted a very similar article a day or so later with a similar number of boosters. In this case, I really hope the boosters put enough pressure on that they succeed.

What do you think?

Links to similar articles calling for Brian Kelly’s and Jack Swarbrick’s resignation or outright firing:


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