After an investigation that took six months -- and there was no reason for it to take that long -- the University of Notre Dame today announced that "no one acted in disregard for safety" in the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan on an extremely windy day last Oct. 27.
The linked Chicago Breaking Sports article goes on to quote school president Rev. John Jenkins:
"The university, then, is collectively responsible," Jenkins said. "Insofar as the President is responsible for the university as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that responsibility."
Well, really, now. What responsibility is that, Rev. Jenkins? Did you resign? Did you take a pay cut? Did you punish the people connected with the football program who made the absolutely stupid decision to let Declan Sullivan go up on that rickety lift on a day when there were extraordinary windy conditions, despite these findings in the report your school issued?
- A "sudden and extraordinary" 53 mile per hour burst of wind;
- Staff members' lack of knowledge regarding on-the-field wind speeds;
- That Sullivan's lift was more susceptible to tipping than the two other lifts used that day;
- The lift's height at the time of the accident.
No, Rev. Jenkins just "takes responsibility". What does that mean? A young man is dead, and he didn't have to be. He's dead because he was afraid to buck the authority of a powerful college football program's leaders who didn't have the common sense to not put someone up on a lift that day. No, the practice had to be videotaped. The program had to go on, safety be damned. Jenkins may have taken responsibility, but as I wrote here last October, neither coach Brian Kelly nor athletic director Jack Swarbrick took responsibility for their actions. And they still haven't. I suppose perhaps later today, they'll both offer platitudes and further apologies to Declan Sullivan's family.
Don't they get it? A college student died because men in responsible positions who could have prevented that death failed to make logical and reasonable decisions that could have prevented that death. So far, the only "responsibility" that's been forced on anyone in this tragedy is this:
After its own investigation, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the South Bend campus $77,500 in March for ignoring industry standards that could have prevented Sullivan’s death.
Geez, $77,500. A program as wealthy as Notre Dame's can probably find that under the couch cushions. Rev. Jenkins, you should fire Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick. That won't bring Declan Sullivan back, but it would at least prove that someone has to pay a price (even though losing a job isn't nearly what losing a life is) for these wrongheaded decisions. There is no question that these men acted in disregard of Declan Sullivan's safety. They need to pay a price.
Otherwise, the message is: "full speed ahead for college football". Despicable.