Brian Kelly's crisis of conscience


As the entirely avoidable death of Declan Sullivan continues to gnaw at me like that feeling of something I’ve forgotten to do or the sense that there’s something I need to remember to do but can’t quite remember what it is, the only way to make the discomfort subside for the next 10 hours or so is to write about the situation.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days wondering what Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is thinking right now.  As the man ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the Fighting Irish football program, and as the man who apparently decided to practice outside, not inside, on Declan’s last day, Kelly likely is feeling responsible for the accident.

There’s that word again.  “Accident.”  As I’ve told my son more times than he cares to remember when he’s doing something that he shouldn’t be doing, a potential bad outcome can’t be brushed off as an “accident” when common sense should have indicated the connection between the behavior and the eventual “accident.” 

And when an “accident” happens under those circumstances, people are held accountable.

For Notre Dame, which undoubtedly has liability limits and umbrella policies that will allow $10 million or more to be paid by an insurance carrier to Sullivan’s family (as if that will even begin to comfort them), the question of accountability runs far deeper than whether the death falls within the terms of the available coverage.  For Notre Dame, the question of accountability entails doing the right thing in the wake of a preventable tragedy — and, ideally, those accountable shouldn’t have to be told by anything but their own consciences what the right outcome should be.

Jason Whitlock of has made a passionate, persuasive argument that Kelly should immediately be fired.  We agree with a lot of what Whitlock has said.  For now, however, we’re not sure we agree with the suggested outcome.

It’s still too early in the process for Notre Dame to determine whether Kelly has responsibility for Sullivan’s death.  But Kelly likely knows right now, in his heart, whether he bears all or part of the blame for Sullvan’s death. 

The algorithm is simple.  Can Kelly look the mother of Declan Sullivan in the eyes and truthfully say, “There was nothing I could have done to save your son”?  If Kelly can’t do that, then he should resign.  Apart from being the right thing to do, it will set a clear precedent and send a loud message to every head coach at every level of every sport.

Every day, people entrust the safety of their sons and daughters to these men and women.  Certain risks aren’t avoidable.  Plenty of risks — especially weather-related hazards like wind and lightning — are.  Coaches need at all times to be willing to take all reasonable precautions to protect the sons and daughters under their care from these dangers.

And when they fail to take reasonable precautions, they never should seek refuge in the notion that it was all an “accident.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.