Weighing in on the Declan Sullivan report

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
2:45
PM ET
I offered my reaction to Notre Dame's report on the Declan Sullivan tragedy on Monday. Lots of opinions have been rolling in from media outlets across the country this week, and many of them have been critical of the school's findings.

A sampling of the opinions:

The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Telander writes that the Notre Dame report missed the point:
All anybody involved with Notre Dame football on campus had to do was say, ‘‘It’s too windy to send those kids up in the towers today.’

End of story.

But neither head coach Brian Kelly nor athletic director Jack Swarbrick nor Jenkins nor any of the multiple administrators or underlings or toadies or frightened hangers-on in the Irish program — the flow charts in the report are both hilarious and mind-numbing — ever said a thing.

The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh said everyone at Notre Dame disregarded safety that fateful day:
Sorry, when a student falls to an accidental death on the job while employed and enrolled at a university that claims to live by a higher standard, saying we're sorry doesn't cut it. Nothing will bring Sullivan back, but replacing scissors lifts with remote-controlled cameras falls short of a satisfactory response.

It's unfathomable that Sullivan can lose his life because of a stunning lack of common sense and nobody in charge of his welfare loses a job or income as a result of disciplinary action.

CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd says the school needs to show it understands the seriousness of the situation.
We need a scalp here -- a firing. Maybe several. I'm not advocating coach Brian Kelly necessarily be one of them but that position would be a good place to start assigning blame. Kelly is in charge and theoretically responsible for everything that goes on within the football program. AD Jack Swarbrick is his boss. Fr. Jenkins threw himself on the carefully worded sword but you and I know that, judging by this report, losses to Michigan get you fired quicker than a student's death.
A firing doesn't bring Declan Sullivan back, but it tells us at least the school cares. What we're left with is an investigation that seems Tillmanesque. George O'Leary was fired for fudging on his résumé. A kid dies shortly after texting his fears about the wind from a dangerous height and Notre Dame concludes, "Declan never radioed or otherwise communicated with anyone on the field that he was uncomfortable on the lift.

Irish Illustrated's Tim Prister says Notre Dame came to a no-win conclusion.
What is common sense before a tragedy occurs? In this instance, a too easy second-guess. Notre Dame is defenseless when it comes to justifying its actions. It cannot come up with an acceptable explanation in light of Sullivan's death, other than a lack of preparedness and foresight. If only Sullivan had survived what proved to be a fatal fall. If only Notre Dame could get a do-over, it would do the right thing, just as anyone thrust into this unfortunate set of circumstances would do.

ESPN.com's Ryan McGee writes that pinpointing one person for blame would have been wrong.
The central finding of the report's story is spot-on. What killed Declan Sullivan wasn't one bad decision made by a person or persons who didn't do their job. Sullivan was killed by a culture, the hierarchy of an old school, grass-and-lime rectangular world that has largely remained unchanged since the days of Knute Rockne. And it isn't exclusive to South Bend.

In the end, that culture is what the report ultimately blames for the deadly accident.

Finally, I received an email from Michael Miley, Sullivan's uncle and the family spokesperson. He agreed with my assessment that Notre Dame's must become a leader in making sure this type of accident never happens again.
"We agree that ND's path towards helping others learn from this situation is the best course of action going forward," he wrote.

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