'Very difficult time': Kelly says he OK'd fateful practice
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Coach Brian Kelly took responsibility for the decision to practice outdoors Wednesday, the day student Declan Sullivan died when the video tower from which he was taping football practice toppled in high winds.
''I made the decision that we could have a productive and safe practice outdoors,'' Kelly said Saturday at his news conference after Notre Dame's 28-27 loss to Tulsa. ''Productive because the conditions ... although windy, were not unlike many days that I had practiced at other universities, including here at Notre Dame.
''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 ...
''I can't emphasize enough how important it is that when you talk about taking your football team outside, those [safety-related] items are at the forefront of every coach's [thinking] -- not just me, not just at Notre Dame -- everybody in the country thinks about the same things. That's probably one area where we're all grappling with right now.''
Kelly was asked why no one told the videographers to come down from the towers and whether anyone is in charge of monitoring situations like that.
''Those are all things that we're examining right now,'' he said. ''We ... have been doing that since the accident occurred.''
The Irish will practice outdoors but won't use the portable lifts, Kelly said, ''until we clearly have more information relative to some of the questions that were asked here today.''
Kelly said he did not see the tower fall, but ''I knew once the tower went over who it was [that was on the platform].''
He said the team continued to practice on his instructions.
''At that point, we had players that were starting to migrate towards the accident scene,'' he said. ''I thought it was important to keep our guys away from that accident scene.''
Kelly said the loss was personal for him.
''I got a chance to know Declan because of all the time he spent in our office, especially during the summer,'' Kelly said. ''He was a lover of film and writing. He was a great writer. I've got memories of him just being in the film and video offices, putting things together secretive on most occasions. I'd look over his shoulder.
''As a father of three, I can only imagine the sorrow that accompanies the loss of your son. So it's been a very difficult time for me and everybody within our football family.''
Running back Cierre Wood said players ''were just in shock.''
''Our medical staff ran over there,'' Wood said. ''It was behind the wall, so we couldn't really see anything. But I was just in shock. I didn't know what to do.''
Kelly said he met with Sullivan's family Thursday night before the Mass of Remembrance.
'It was me telling the family how much he meant to our entire football team,'' Kelly said. ''His personality was so easy to recognize. He stood out from everybody else.''