While the mourning continues at Notre Dame, officials at schools around the country are taking steps to make sure that an accident like the one that killed Fighting Irish videographer Declan Sullivan last week will not happen again.
“Right now, we don’t have a written policy that specifically addresses the issue,” Kansas University associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said. “But we will soon.”
Sullivan, 20, died after the hydraulic scissor lift from which he was filming a Notre Dame football practice toppled to the ground in the wake of winds that reached speeds of 40 mph and gusts as high as 50 and 60 mph.
Sullivan, Tweeting from his phone while the wind howled, indicated that he was frightened for his life.
KU football coach Turner Gill said any time an incident such as this takes place anywhere in the nation, it hits close to home. But Gill also said that KU had measures in place to eliminate the potential for a similar accident in Lawrence.
“The highest our lift will go is 40 feet,” Gill said. “And if (the wind) gets anywhere to 20-plus mph, then we lower it. So we already had some things in place to try to prevent some things of that nature.”
Jeff Love, KU’s video coordinator, said the Jayhawks employ the services of three scissor lifts for each practice, which means three student video assistants are filming from the platforms nearly every day. The lifts are self-operated, and it’s up to KU’s trainers to keep the coaching staff abreast of any potential weather hazards.
“It’s the same concept with all kinds of weather,” Marchiony said. “They alert the coaches, and it goes from the trainers to the coaching staff, from the coaching staff to (associate athletic director) Chris Howard and then above that is the athletic director. In that order, that’s who makes the decision.”
Though Kansas Athletics currently has a sound system in place, Marchiony said the incident at Notre Dame has caused athletic-department officials to take a closer look at safety.
“Does something like this raise awareness? Certainly the answer to that is yes,” Marchiony said. “Whenever something happens in the athletic community — whether it be high school, college, pros — it is absolutely common and natural to look inward and say, ‘OK, what would we have done in this case?’ or ‘Do we have safeguards in place or do we have a written policy in place?’”
Having said that, Marchiony pointed out that external factors sometimes disrupt the best-laid plans.
“There is an education process that occurs when this piece of equipment is rented,” he said. “But sometimes accidents happen, and no amount of education can guarantee that an accident won’t happen. That’s the unfortunate part of this.”
Gill said the incident at Notre Dame presented others with a good opportunity to evaluate themselves.
“When something tragic like this happens, you definitely want to look at what you’re doing and make sure you’re on the right track and make sure that the safety of everybody involved with your program (is considered).”
Added Marchiony: “Everybody here feels horrible, first of all, for the young man and his family, and certainly for the Notre Dame family as well. There isn’t one college or university that hasn’t lived through a tragedy, and this is a tragedy, and we all know what it feels like to live through this, and we feel for everyone involved.”
KU’s quarterback situation is as crowded as ever, with junior Quinn Mecham in as the acting starter and former starters Kale Pick and Jordan Webb expected to return from injuries this week.
Monday, on the Big 12 coaches teleconference, Gill said he would not be ready to name a starter for this week’s matchup with Colorado — 1 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium — until later in the week, perhaps as late as Thursday.
“I think we’re at least gonna have the other two guys who were not available last week, Kale Pick and Jordan Webb, right along with Quinn Mecham,” Gill said. “They’re all three probably gonna have a chance, but we gotta see how healthy (they are), particularly Jordan.”
After Saturday’s 28-16 loss at Iowa State, Gill said, when healthy, Webb would be KU’s starting QB.
Gill discusses future
Asked Monday if he thought he’d be given the time to build the KU football program in his own vision with a new athletic director being named in the near future, Gill stuck to the things he has said since his arrival.
“Those are things that I have no control (of),” he said. “The only thing I can do is go out there and teach and do the best I can, and that’s what I’m going to focus on. They hired me to do a job here, and that’s what I’m here to do. That’s what we’re gonna do with this staff. We believe in what we’re trying to get accomplished and our style of coaching, and we’re still trying to mesh together what we have as a football team. I have confidence in the administration that, whoever they end up hiring, they’re gonna give us an opportunity to build this winning program.”