Reporting Dan Bernstein
A college football coach is responsible for a dead kid, and we don’t really seem to care.
I realized it again yesterday, when former coach Gerry DiNardo described himself to us as “physically ill” in response to the news: he understood – and articulated – the clear, specific responsibility a coach has to ensure the safety of everyone at practice, before any concerns about winning a football game.
He wondered about all the practices he had overseen as head coach of Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana, and what kind of risks were taken placing student assistants high in the air on camera platforms. His empathy and retroactive fear were palpable.
He reminded us, in so many words, that a grave, terrible error was made by someone entrusted to know better.
Yet Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly shows no such remorse, in his words or his demeanor. Why was there no trace of feeling from him? If another coach can feel so terribly just imagining himself with blood on his hands, how can the actual culprit respond as he did?
In his first appearance in front of reporters after the incident, Kelly was content to mutter about the importance of “productivity” in practice, gallingly revealing that “…the next thing that is important is that it’s a safe session.”
If that is the case, coach, you’re fired. That prioritization is wholly wrong. It should set off alarm bells in the homes of anyone you recruit now and hereafter.
Fans and media seem content to shrug off tragedy – what’s the death of Declan Sullivan matter when there’s the playcalling in the loss to Tulsa to discuss?
Get him in the ground, “celebrate his life,” and put those helmets back on, boys! Let the news cycle chew forward. Nothing to see here! Too bad this all happened, of course. Who do we play Saturday?
Shame on Kelly, and shame on the oily priests in charge who appear more concerned with lawyering up than anything else.
Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick – himself a lawyer – actually had the nerve to say that he thought the weather was fine that day.
Well, Jack, it wasn’t.
When Northwestern’s Rashidi Wheeler dropped dead on the practice field, his mother was angry. Linda Will fought loudly and relentlessly for the truth to be found and justice done. Her loyalties were with her son’s memory – not a football program. She wanted answers for why her baby’s asthma attack proved fatal, after she had trusted others with his safety. She kept the heat on, perhaps even overly so at the end of the process.
Maybe the Sullivan family will eventually respond similarly, but their statement to the media indicates otherwise. They said “The grief we feel is tempered by the knowledge that Dec was doing what he loved in the place he most wanted to be.”
If you had read his Twitter posts from just before the scissor-lift fell, you’d know he wanted to be anywhere but up there.
If I were his father, my grief would be tempered by nothing.
I would be angry.
You should be, too.