Notre Dame tragedy goes unnoticed by the media

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

I went to class October 27th like any other weekday, on my bike and probably a little underdressed. Remember that three-day period of constant wind and general discomfort of being outside? That’s what I’m talking about.

South Bend, Ind., is 735 miles away from Brookings, but on that same day, the wind howled with similar magnitude and identical persistence on my way to and from class.

It was part of a storm, but not just any. A historically powerful storm. A storm that canceled over 250 flights at Chicago O’Hare airport alone. A storm that had seven states report wind gusts of over 70 miles an hour. Pierre had reported winds of over 50 miles an hour in 24 of the last 32 hours up to Oct. 28 when the storm finally subsided. Meteorologists measured the storm as the lowest barometric pressure from a non-hurricane in the history of the continental United States. Greenfield, Ind., some three hours south of South Bend down Highway 31, had a registered wind gust of 77 miles per hour.

In South Bend, members of the Notre Dame football team were outside, on the practice field, preparing for its upcoming game at home against Tulsa. Declan Sullivan was there, obligingly but apprehensive, and – if his Twitter page can be interpreted literally – maybe terrified. Sullivan, a videographer for the Fighting Irish, was perched atop one of the team’s scissor lifts, a structure used to place guys like Sullivan 50 feet in the air to film practice. These scissor lifts are safe, but not in gusts that reached as high as 50 miles per hour in South Bend that day. The structure may as well have been made from toothpicks.

Sullivan typed chilling updates to his Twitter page leading to practice and while on the scissor lift, with statements like, “Gust of wind up to 60 mph, well today will be fun at work … I guess I’ve lived long enough,” and “Holy f***, holy f*** this is terrifying,” only 40 minutes before the scissor lift toppled over, killing him.

Some may ask, “Why didn’t he refuse to go up there?”

Peer pressure. Sullivan’s job meant ascending into the sky and filming practice. Care to tell the head coach you won’t do it, risking humiliation and losing your job? A videographer feels insignificant enough already surrounded by a full roster on a team historically the most prestigious in college football. The power to conform to extreme authority overwhelms anyone in that situation.

There’s no defense element to this event. The makers of the scissor lift concluded that the lift should not be used with winds exceeding 25 miles an hour. The winds reached twice that velocity.

Where is the national outrage?

How about any sign of accountability?

How about someone like head coach Brian Kelly losing their job?

The structure of a football team consists of players, coaches, secretaries, student assistants, medical staff and even videographers. The head coach oversees all of it, all the way down to which color of permanent marker should be in the offices. And just like choosing that color, Kelly has the power and control to summon any videographer down from a lift under extreme conditions.

I don’t declare that Kelly should lose his job, though I wouldn’t refute it happening.

I just want a solemn and sincere apology. Following Notre Dame’s loss to Tulsa, Kelly had this to say, in an almost robotic, unemotional and scripted response.

“I made the decision that we could have a productive and safe practice outdoors. Productive because the conditions were such, although windy, were not unlike many days that I had practiced at other universities, including here at the University of Notre Dame. Productive practice is important obviously within our offense, as well. Throwing the football, you have to be able to look at the weather conditions and find out whether you believe it’s going to be a productive day first. We believed it to be productive. It was productive, obviously up until the tragedy. The next thing that is important is that it’s a safe session, that the practice must be safe.”

Safe for his players, anyway.

This is a case of the befuddling and even backwards coverage of the media, not just foolish negligence exhibited by football-obsessed coaches. I mean, have you Googled Brett Favre lately?

I’m just upset of one belief I have, combined with knowing a 20-year-old kid probably very similar to me died out of a complete lack of common sense.

It’s the belief that Brian Kelly has a greater chance of being fired for his loss against Tulsa than for the death of Sullivan.

Drue Aman is The Collegian’s sport’s editor. Contact him at [email protected]