Notre Dame's Brian Kelly Discusses Declan Sullivan Tragedy

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After today's 28-27 home loss to Tulsa, Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly talked at length for the first time about the tragic death of student videographer Declan Sullivan. Here are some of the more important and interesting excerpts of what he had to say at the postgame press conference.

I also advise you to read this piece by the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton, listing and detailing many of the various operating procedures for hydraulic lifts employed by college football .

And also read this discussion on whether or not this accident will cost Kelly his job.

Without further ado, here's what Kelly had to say about the tragedy:

From Kelly's opening statement:


Extraordinary the way the university has come together.  The mass
was so good for me and everybody on our football team, our football
family, the university.  The leadership that Father Jenkins and Jack
Swarbrick has helped me with me and all those associated with our
football program.

On Wednesday I made the decision that we could have a productive
and safe practice outdoors.  Productive because the conditions were
such, although windy, were not unlike many days that I had practiced at
other universities, including here at the University of Notre Dame. 
Productive practice is important obviously within our offense, as well. 
Throwing the football, you have to be able to look at the weather
conditions and find out whether you believe it's going to be a
productive day first.  We believed it to be productive.  It was
productive, obviously up until the tragedy.

The next thing that is important is that it's a safe session, that
the practice must be safe.  That takes on a litany of different things
when you talk about safe.  When we're indoors, my biggest concern is
always running out on the track or running in an area where there's
medical equipment or water bottles or just the safety of our football
team.

Outdoors, different weather elements obviously play in that
relative to safety, as well.  You know, whether it's a tornado warning
the day before or it's a lightning storm that's in the area, or the heat
index is at a certain number, and certainly wind.  All of those
elements have to be evaluated in making the decision, which I made the
decision that I felt it was productive and safe.

We have systems in place to make certain and that deal with issues
of safety.  Clearly in this instance, they failed.  We are in the
process of examining all of those systems that are in place and looking
for those answers.  That's currently where we are:  investigating this
tragedy and carefully looking at everything relative to safety.

You know, I can't emphasize enough how important it is that, when
you talk about taking your football team outside, those items are at the
forefront of every coach's ? not just me, not just here at the
University of Notre Dame ? everybody in the country thinks about the
same things.  That's probably the one area obviously that we're all
grappling with right now.

I can recall being out at the practice site.  It was a windy day,
but a productive day.  Next thing I knew, I heard that the tower was
down.  First thing that I did is I got to my coaches that were obviously
affected by the situation, some of them running around.  I gathered the
coaches quickly, two of them, and said, Keep practicing.  At that point
we had players that were starting to migrate towards the accident
scene.  I thought it was important for me to keep our guys away from
that accident scene.

Our coaches did a great job of monitoring our players, staying
with our players, keeping them preoccupied, as I then left to go to the
accident scene.

I got to the accident scene and saw that our training staff were
with Declan, and I wanted to make certain that that area was in good
hands.  It looked like to me everything was moving in the right
direction.  We had Notre Dame responders, we had ambulance responders. 
And once I felt comfortable in that situation, where we had
professionals on?site dealing with it, I went back inside to the
practice field and subsequently called our football team together at
midfield.  We prayed for Declan.  I told and informed our football team
of the injury, the seriousness of it, and I then dismissed our football
team.

That's my best recollection of the events surrounding the accident itself.

Obviously there's going to be a lot of speculation, there's going
to be a lot of questions.  I'm not really adept at being able to handle
some of the specifics.  I can tell you that we're working hard to get
all those answers.  We're so close to this event occurring that we're
still putting together a lot of the information that everybody I'm sure
is interested in, as we are as well.

Q.  Why didn't anyone tell him to come down?  Who is responsible for
monitoring stuff during practice as conditions change?  Why wasn't there
anyone to tell him to bring the lift down?

COACH KELLY:  Certainly, as you know, those are all the things that
we're examining right now.  We could probably come up with a number of
different things that we're all wondering.  Those are the questions that
are being asked exactly as you've asked them.  We're doing that, and
have been doing it since the accident occurred.

Q.  Is there a max wind speed prescribed for those pieces of equipment, that you know of?

COACH KELLY:  I don't.  Again, if I had the knowledge specifically
of wind speed and heights of lifts, all of those, I certainly would
provide those to you.  I just don't have that information.

Q. Will you be back outside again next week and will you have videographers up in the lift?

COACH KELLY:  We will be outside.  We will not be using the lifts
until we clearly have more information relative to some of the questions
that were asked here today.

Q.  Has anybody been temporarily relieved of their duties or assignments while the investigation goes on?

COACH KELLY:  Not that I'm aware of.

Let's talk about Tulsa.

Q.  Ever in your coaching career, this week, Declan's death, the way
this turned out, has there ever been a more difficult week for you?

COACH KELLY:  As a football coach, there's been more difficult weeks
relative to the game itself.  But in terms of the tragedy that occurred,
there's never been a more difficult time in my life.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He's also a regular contributor to the Tribune's Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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