Oh, how far the mighty have fallen. Notre Dame, the former Goliath of college football has been reduced to no more than an average NCAA program over the past decade, despite having an immense amount of talent, high profile coaches and all the money in the world. And things are about to get even worse.
As most of us already know, Declan Sullivan, a Notre Dame student-athlete lost his life last week when the scissor-lift he was filming practice on toppled to the ground due to high wind gusts.
I've heard the tragedy discussed on Sportscenter and talk radio; I've read a number of articles about it. Amongst the mainstream media there seems to be a lot of interest in whether or not Notre Dame's "investigation" will turn up any evidence that would warrant the firing of Brian Kelly.
What everyone seems to be ignoring is the fact that the result of the investigation shouldn't matter.
Notre Dame, as a football power, is in the midst of trying to reclaim its former glory. In order to do that, it needs to be able to compete with the top football schools in the country (Alabama, Florida, USC, Texas, Oklahoma) for recruits - not an easy task.
If you've ever seen any of the speeches that college football coaches give to their players, you consistently hear them discuss the same themes - brotherhood, togetherness, family. They preach these things so that young men, most of whom will never make a living playing football, will risk their livelihoods to win their coaches games. They preach these things to young men - many of whom are susceptible to such a message because they come from poor communities and rough family lives - so that they will sacrifice their bodies to win a game from which they get nothing and their coaches make millions of dollars. They preach these things to parents, so that mothers will feel comfortable sending their kids hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles away from home to go play football for some guy they're lucky if they meet more than once.
This isn't meant to be an argument about whether or not some college coaches are sleeze-bags (see: Lane Kiffin, John Calipari), because the list of sleezebags is much smaller than the list of legit guys trying to do some good for a group of young men. And I'm not trying to argue that Brian Kelly is a sleeze-bag. I'm sure he's not. I'm sure he's an honest guy who works very hard for his program and has good intentions.
Here's my issue with Brian Kelly: his credibility is gone. His ability to preach that "family, brotherhood" crap is out the window. No parent, no young man can take his words as anything but a punchline anymore.
The press conference following Sullivan's death was brutal to watch - a series of "not my faults" mixed with fake emotion and bullshit.
Notre Dame's Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick, was more interested in protecting his own ass than providing any meaningful information about the catastrophe. That's why when he was asked about Sullivan's Twitter posts (in which he expressed fear for his life an hour before the incident), Swarbrick offered no response and tried to escape culpability, saying "mine was a 5-minute perspective."
So there were 60 mph winds and Swarbrick didn't notice them? Bullshit.
Say "I didn't see Declan up there."
Say "That's ultimately the decision of our football staff."
Say anything, but don't say that.
In his press conference, Brian Kelly emphasized the importance of a "productive practice". Productivity at what cost? Was having the practice on film going to increase the productivity of the practice so much that you were willing to risk a 20 year old kid's life?
That's not even the worst part about his portion of the press conference. From what I saw, it seemed like Kelly barely knew the kid.
Tough to preach 'family' after that.
I am not writing this post to take pleasure in the death of a prominent college football program. That's not my style. In fact, I normally don't care about college football at all. I am a Syracuse fan, which means that any interest I had in college football died when Donovan McNabb left Central NY.
What I am interested in is the recent disaster that occurred at the University of Notre Dame and the lack of an appropriate institutional response.
No matter what the "investigation" yields, both Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbick need to be fired. Because they're bad man? No. They need to be fired because they can't go into young men's homes anymore and say "we're going to take care of you son. You're going to become part of the Notre Dame family."