(hands up, everyone who’d leave these guys in charge of their kids)
Notre Dame undergrad Declan Sullivan was laid to rest Monday, several days after he perished when a video tower collapsed in heavy winds during Irish football practice Head coach Brian Kelly’s judgement during Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Tulsa is under fire, but as Forbes’ Patrick Rishe explains, that could be the least of Kelly’s problems.
Mr. Sullivan™s chillingly predictive ˜tweets™ convey his vivid awareness and concern regarding the perils in place at the time of the incident. One friend of mine from the legal community suggested that Mr. Sullivan™s share of the blame is considerable given that he was aware of the dangers at hand yet willingly continued to do his job despite having the right to seek shelter.
But just as you could conclude that it would have been reasonable for Mr. Sullivan to voluntarily seek shelter in light of his concerns, you could also argue that it would have been similarly reasonable for any one of the numerous on-site adults (e.g. coaches, administrators, facility staff) to approach Mr. Sullivan and mandate that he cease his elevated videography services due to inclimate weather for safety™s sake.
The reality is that most 20-year old employees of major Division I college football programs work in awe or fear (or both) of their coaching staffs and/or student-athlete peers. They are simply dedicated workers who show their school spirit by taking great pride in their job. As such, they are not likely to voluntarily ™sit one out™ unless approached by an adult who supposedly has a better grasp on the ˜big picture™ and who can play a nurturing and protective parental role when faced with adversity or unfamiliar circumstances.
Unless we find out that Mr. Sullivan either (a) did not have permission to be on the lift or (b) ignored someone™s urging to descend from the lift, then the athletics department staff will shoulder between 80-100% of the blame for this incident. Especially when you consider that Notre Dame held an indoor practice the day before Mr. Sullivan™s death in part because of excessive winds, yet the next day in highly similar conditions the team held practice outdoors without preventing Mr. Sullivan from taking his place in the filming tower.
Rishe estimates that if Kelly and/or Jack Swarbick are found culpable, Notre Dame could be on the hook for somewhere in the range of $30 million compensatory damages. It’s fun to imagine Kelly being forced to resume his career as an educator by working for free, but it’s not clear that would be such a great deal for the university.