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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 30, 2010
Tulsa – 28
Notre Dame - 27
COACH KELLY: Obviously a very difficult loss for our football team. Certain pales in comparison to the unimaginable sorrow we had this week in the loss of Declan Sullivan. 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.
I didn't think we were going to have to go through something like this so close to the tragedy we had with Matt James. You know, you think you're strong and able to handle all of those things that are thrown at you. This one was very difficult. All we can do in these very difficult times is what we did, and that's support Declan and his family, rally like we did here at Notre Dame to provide for all those affected with this great loss the opportunity to heal.
So it's been, from a personal perspective, a very difficult week for all of us. I focused strictly on the Sullivan family, our football family and my own family. Really that's been all the things that have taken up my time since this tragedy occurred.
Declan, you know, quite frankly, I don't know if it's customary or not, but the head coach usually doesn't come in contact on a day-to-day basis with a lot of videographers. They come in and we leave. Our time never really syncs up where we get a chance to spend much time.
But I got a chance to meet Declan and know him because of all the time he spent in our office, especially this summer. As you know, he was a lover of film and writing. He was a great writer. I've got great memories of him just being in the film and video offices, putting things together secretive on most occasions. I'd look over his shoulder.
I pass that on because this one hurts because, again, in my 20 years I don't know that I've had maybe a dozen people, student workers, that I knew. I knew Declan. It's was a very, very difficult week for all of us.
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. We're very interested in making sure that we provide, my staff has been incredible, in providing as much information as possible. That's really important.
For me, it was important for me to get a chance to spend time with Declan's family before the mass and pass on to them our entire football team's sincere sorrow for what has occurred. It's just a devastating thing for everybody. But it was really important, I wanted to be able to meet the family. I was very, very fortunate to do so.
I'm trying to cover as many of the notes that I have scribbled down here.
Again, I think the most important thing is that for me, productive and safe. Weather-related factors are examined every day relative to that safe atmosphere. We've got systems in place to deal with that. We're obviously examining them very, very carefully, especially obviously wind.
So, again, I don't have a lot of answers relative to specifics. I'll open it up to some questions.
Q. When did you realize that it was Declan that was down? Did you know when practice started that it was him?
COACH KELLY: I knew once the tower went over who it was.
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. The daily protocol of the videographers, do they come in and get assigned, or do they do their duties knowing what they are?
COACH KELLY: Typically they all meet together, get a practice schedule, because each one of them are assigned different areas of the field to film. Declan was on the defensive field. His duties were generally filming the defensive and our offensive show squad. Everybody knew their roles as they began the day. We're given a schedule as to, We want you filming in this area at this particular time.
Q. When you met with his family, in what capacity did you meet with him? Where were you?
COACH KELLY: We were in the main building. It was a great exchange because Declan had informed his family how much he enjoyed his year here with me and the staff. It was great to hear that. But more importantly, it was me telling the family how much he meant to our entire football team. His personality was so easy to recognize. He stood out from everybody else.
Obviously, we wanted to pass on our sorrow, as well, not only individually, but also as a team.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH KELLY: Not that I'm aware of.
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.
I told our football team I was proud of them, and I am. I'm proud of the way they battled. Not happy losing football games. We work too hard. But they battled. We were the Fighting Irish today. We had guys that were down. We had a lot of freshmen out there today learning how to play this game, fighting.
You look at the game in its entirety, there was a little bit of everything out there today. But for me, it's certainly about winning football games, first and foremost. But it's the way our guys played. Boy, with everything that was on their plate, they went out and battled their butts off today, and I'm proud of them.
Q. Now that you head into your bye week, now that you've examined everything, what areas do you have to work on as you get ready for the last three games and have to win two?
COACH KELLY: You're absolutely right. The most important thing still is for us is to get to six wins. We got to win two out of three now. That's our number one goal, to win two out of three games minimally to get to six wins.
Q. Can you take us through the last play with the interception in the end zone, what you were hoping to see there.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we knew we had a one-on-one matchup with Mike Floyd. We certainly wanted to give that an opportunity for success and score a touchdown there. Took a timeout there to talk about it. I think we all know what happened there.
But keep in mind, you better get used to it, because that's the way we're playing. If we can get a one-on-one matchup, and we think we can get that accomplished, we're going to call that play again and again. We'll make that play. We didn't make it today. But in time we'll make that play.
Q. They told us there was an unconfirmed report that Dayne is done for the season.
COACH KELLY: It seems every medical report I get, it ends with, Done for the season. I'm not sure. I haven't gotten anything yet.
The first report I got was a bruised knee, and then it was something with his patellar tendon. I'll have to get more information before I confirm, deny what it is. But it's a severe injury, I can tell you that, just seeing Dayne briefly.
Q. Does it change what you do with the two other freshmen quarterbacks? Do either of them start getting reps?
COACH KELLY: They may get reps. But, you know, right now obviously we've got to get a backup ready, and that would be Nate right now.
Q. I know you said you would call that same play again. 36 seconds left, a field goal kicker who hasn't missed in the last 18 tries, why not just set up a field goal?
COACH KELLY: Why not try to get Michael Floyd one-on-one against a 5'9" corner and call a timeout, here is what we're going to do. Second down, take a shot here. If we don't like it, let's throw that thing away.
Tommy wanted to do all those things. Tommy is a gamer. You saw him competing out there. He knows the deal. He's a quarterback.
Again, to me this is how we play. We're going to play aggressive. We're going to play smart. If it's not there, we're going to throw it away. We're going to line up on third down and have another shot to get that thing even closer.
But I would make the call again and I would hope that the process of learning would have a different outcome.
Q. How would you assess Tommy's play overall today?
COACH KELLY: Awesome. Are you kidding me? I couldn't be more happy for the kid. True freshman going out there, hasn't played. He just competes. Took some big hits, got right back up. I don't know if he knew where he was a couple of times. Got right back up, said some things. I knew that he was going to compete again.
He's a competitive kid. He loves to play.
Throwing the ball is where he's at. You know, that's what he does well. He gets the ball out of his hands. He reads things. Couldn't do everything we wanted to do. I don't even know what the numbers are. We've got to score more points. But I love the way the kid competed.
Q. After the Michigan game you put together some packages for Nate and Tommy. Can you talk about how those packages are different?
COACH KELLY: Throw the ball. Throw it. Get it out.
The one thing we have to do is, look, we've got a young back out there? Cierre. Cierre is learning as he goes. Did he miss some reads? Absolutely, certainly. There is a guy that had almost no football. He hadn't played. He's out there competing. He wants to do well. You got Tyler Eifert, who is a freshman, you got T.J. Jones, Robby Toma who hasn't played, Tommy Rees. They're battling. I couldn't be more proud of those kids.
Q. What was the deal with Armando today?
COACH KELLY: It's not a good situation. He may have played his last down here at Notre Dame because of the injury. Yes, he has another hip flexor. It's the labrum. It's now torn cartilage. He may need surgery. He may be out. We're not certain on that. But he wanted to dress and run through the tunnel in case it was his last time playing at Notre Dame.
So add him to the list.
Q. Not to belabor the last interception.
COACH KELLY: You can ask as many times as you want, I'm going to give you the same answer.
Q. They said they had over-under coverage on Michael.
COACH KELLY: That's not what they had. They had one-on-one. You saw it. Did you watch the play?
Q. I saw two guys near Floyd, one guy in front of him. I was passing along what Todd Graham said.
COACH KELLY: Throw the ball away, we're fine. We sent two receivers to the field: one to hold the safety, one to hold the one-on-one route. If we have one-on-one coverage, we're going to take it, if not, we're going to get rid of it. Didn't work out that way.
But, again, if confronted with the same situation again, and I'm not trying to bully the answer to you, I've always reacted with if you give me that matchup, let's take it, if we don't, we'll throw it away and run it on third down and kick the field goal. We didn't get a chance to run it on third down.
Q. How would you describe the guys before the game?
COACH KELLY: Really good. Really went through all of the emotions. We had a wide range of emotions that our guys were dealing with. We provided resources. Our university provided counselling, provided opportunities for our guys to speak. Our coaches were available. We really went through those emotions and got to today, and our kids were ready to play. They were loose, they played hard.
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.
End of FastScripts