Notre Dame Should Force Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick to Resign Over the Declan Sullivan Incident

Jason Whitlock leapt into the pool yesterday. Hopefully there is water remaining, because I plan to join him. Declan Sullivan’s death was inexcusable. Notre Dame should fire Brian Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

A “freak accident” is an illogical occurrence, something no one could reasonably anticipate. Declan Sullivan’s death was not a freak accident.

The lift Sullivan used was unstable, in even modest winds. It was not approved for use beyond 25mph. He realized the risk, sarcastically tweeting “I guess I’ve lived long enough.” Other coaches realized the risk. Jim Tressel said Ohio State would not practice outside because he feared for the safety of the cameramen in the wind.

This was an accident, but one that should have been anticipated and should have been prevented.

Notre Dame is a university. Brian Kelly is an educator. He chose to practice outside in hazardous conditions. His decision placed students under his charge at risk. One of them died. That’s negligence. That’s an abdication of the most basic responsibility of his job. Any lesser faculty member at Notre Dame would have been summarily fired.

Kelly made an inadvertent mistake. Jack Swarbrick made a deliberate one. He twisted the story of a student’s death to deflect blame and protect the dome.

According to Swarbrick, conditions were tranquil before a sudden and almighty gust of wind toppled Sullivan’s tower. He had no idea why Sullivan would have tweeted from the tower “holy f— this is terrifying holy f— this is terrifying.”

The Tropical Storm force winds had been blowing for two days, throughout the Midwest. It was among the country’s biggest news stories. I knew about it on the East Coast. Notre Dame had practiced indoors the day before because of it.

The conditions during the practice are irrelevant. South Bend was under a wind advisory from the National Weather Service. Forecasts explicitly warned of dangerous wind gusts. The risk was apparent. Swarbrick can’t speak authoritatively about the conditions anyway. He claims he was only at the practice for five minutes.

He probably was wearing some form of jacket to protect himself, from the wind.

Brian Kelly made a decision that led to a student’s death. Jack Swarbrick disingenuously manipulated the story of a student’s death to absolve blame.  The incident and the subsequent response were inexcusable.  Had they occurred in any other setting besides king football, neither would be employed.

[Photo via Getty]

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