Whitlock: Notre Dame must fire Brian Kelly

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches as his team takes on the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on September 25, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 37-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

FOX Sports columnist Jason Whitlock has weighed in on the death of Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan and writes that head coach Brian Kelly should be fired for his negligence in the situation.

Kelly should not coach the Irish on Saturday when they take on Tulsa.

We don’t need a thorough and exhaustive investigation to recognize Kelly’s negligence. A coach’s most important job, particularly at the amateur level, is to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of the young people under his control.

Kelly failed in the worst way possible.

Mitigating circumstances do not matter. Notre Dame’s video coordinator should not be held responsible. Declan Sullivan, who tweeted before and during practice the weather conditions were terrifying and life threatening, certainly isn’t to blame.

The head football coach has final say over everything that transpires on the practice field. Everything. That’s why Ohio State’s Jim Tressel moved the Buckeyes’ practice inside on Tuesday when wind gusts made conditions unsafe.

Whitlock goes on to write that he understands why Kelly had his team practicing outside and also takes time to rip AD Jack Swarbrick for essentially making sure that the media knew he wasn’t at the practice long enough to tell Sullivan to come down.

I don’t know. My emotions say yes, fire Kelly and Swarbrick for their irresponsibility and extreme negligence. Sullivan should have never been on the lift in the first place and if Kelly thought it was dangerous enough to keep his team inside the day before because of a tornado warning, then he should have known not to have students filming practice from that high up during swirling winds. It was absolutely moronic for anyone to ok Sullivan being up on that lift.

That said, do we have the full details here? Do we know who was actually responsible for sending the young man up there? Was it Kelly, someone on his coaching staff, Sullivan’s boss, who? Did someone force him to go up there? If someone forced him to go up there, then done deal – someone has to lose their job. But if this was just a case of people not using their heads (as in, Sullivan went up there as he normally would and nobody thought to tell him to come down), then it’s up to the University to decide what the right course of action should be. Don’t follow up one irresponsible decision with another by firing people without compiling all the details.

Either way, a young man lost his life and for the time being, everyone should be morning his passing and not trying to assess blame. I imagine there will be plenty of time for that later.

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Notre Dame student killed after video tower collapses during football practice

Mar 26, 2010 - South Bend, Indiana, USA - University of Notre Dame football players gather in a huddle Friday during the first spring practice as head coach Brian Kelly officially takes over after Charlie Weis was fired last fall.

In tragic news, a Notre Dame student who had been videotaping a football practice was killed after the tower he was standing on collapsed due to a strong gust of wind.

From FOX Sports.com:

Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old junior from Long Grove, Ill., died Wednesday at a South Bend hospital after the hydraulic scissor lift he was on fell over at the LaBar practice complex. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick promised there would be a full investigation, but did not say who was responsible for allowing the student to use the lift.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since the accident, Swarbrick described a normal practice that quickly became chaotic on Wednesday. He said he was walking along the football field when suddenly, the wind picked up and equipment began flying.

Swarbrick said training staff, medical trainers, coaches, players responded to Sullivan, but after emergency workers arrived, the team went back to the field so the rescuers could help the student. Sullivan was taken to a South Bend hospital, but Swarbrick said he received a call from the ambulance before it arrived that Sullivan was no longer breathing.

The National Weather Service said winds in the area were gusting to 51 mph at the time when the hydraulic scissor lift, which can be lowered or raised depending on needs, fell over. The football team had practiced indoors the day before because of the blustery conditions caused by a fierce storm.

It was not clear specifically who authorized Sullivan to go up in the scissor lift to videotape Wednesday’s practice, but Swarbrick said it was the decision to practice outside was left up to individual programs at the university. As a student worker, Sullivan reported to a video coordinator associated with the team.

According to the article, many media outlets reported that Sullivan sent out a tweet shortly before practice that said, “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph. Well today will be fun at work. I guess I’ve lived long enough.”

Why was he up on the tower in the first place? If everyone knew the winds were that bad, then why didn’t someone think not to allow him to go up there? It just doesn’t make any sense and it’s sad that such a tragic accident could have been avoided had someone used their head. Obviously they were worried enough about the winds the day before that they had the football team practice inside, yet they didn’t think to keep the students off these towers with wind gusts of 60mph? Talk about irresponsibility.

My thoughts go out to Sullivan’s family and friends.

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