For Notre Dame, Lack of Punishment is the Biggest Crime of Them All

At this point, everyone knows the story of Declan Sullivan, the Notre Dame student killed when his hydraulic lift tipped over during a Notre Dame football practice. We’ve all heard the theories as to who should be blamed, what precautions should be taken in the future, and what fines should be issued.

Well, officials have spoken. And Notre Dame was fined a whopping amount, to ensure this will never happen again. They were fined $77,500. That’s a…wait, what? That’s it? Hold on, let me check my sources again.

Nope, that’s right. So any suspensions? No? Well, how about individual fines? Nothing? You sure about that?

Here we go again…

Investigators apparently found that although no one advised Sullivan not to use the lifts, Sullivan never expressed too much disdain for going up, so “no one was to blame.”

That’s bull. That’s garbage, baloney, or any other synonym for the term. Notre Dame’s staff and football program should be suspended for an entire season for what they did. No, that’s not an exaggeration or a gut reaction. That’s a legitimate punishment.

If, in your workplace, your boss told you to do something he knew was dangerous, and you died because of his negligence, he would most likely go to jail – if not have to pay millions to your family in damages.

Now, millions of dollars to the Sullivan family is not going to help much. It won’t bring him back, and it won’t change what happened. But a crappy little fine is going to do nothing to prevent this from happening in the future.

The coaching staff knew how windy it was going to be that day. They knew how dangerous it would be to use those lifts during practice. Yet they still had three students up on separate lifts, in order to help them win a football game. I believe this goes under the scenario in which football is “just a game.” When it comes to the life of a young man, it is even less than just a game. It is child’s play. Football and sports mean nothing when it comes to an obvious safety violation.

Did anyone know that the coaching staff did not allow a female member of the team to go up on the lifts that day, because they “didn’t want to scare her”? So you’re telling me it’s fine to endanger the lives of three young men, as long as the woman is okay?

No. Once again, garbage.

Some people have wondered why Sullivan even agreed to use the lift that day, but I get it; I understand his predicament. As a student-GM of my college’s hockey team, I would do almost anything for our coaching staff to help our team win and to ensure that everyone’s job is easier. So, in Sullivan’s mind, why would he refuse to go up that day if two others were also going up? All it would do is piss off the coaching staff.

Oh yeah, and save his life.

The coaching staff knew the dangers of using the lifts that day. And because they still told him to utilize it, they should be fired and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And if they didn’t know the dangers of the lifts, they should be fired for stupidity and a lack of leadership. And prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

People often have knee-jerk reactions to bad injuries or death. Case in point, when Max Pacioretty was slammed into the boards by Zdeno Chara this NHL season, everyone called for suspensions or changes in the dimensions of the arena. But that was a once-in-a-lifetime incident. And it was part of the game.

This was a bunch of coaches who didn’t give a crap about the safety of a member of their team. All they cared about was the team winning, no matter the cost.

And because of that, the coaches, the school, and the entire sports world should be ashamed of Notre Dame.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at

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