It’s past time that the storied Notre Dame football squad had its program suspended. In a season of heartbreak and horror under new coach Brian Kelly, the Fighting Irish have more than earned what's known as the NCAA's dreaded "death penalty." Historically, teams have received the "death penalty" for illegal recruiting or paying players under the table. The cynics—or perhaps the realists—will point out that most of the programs on the college football map are dirtier than a Vegas city council meeting. Why single out Notre Dame? Simply put, those running the football program in South Bend are guilty of something worse than the payoffs and kickbacks that pepper many of the top so-called amateur teams.
First there was the death of 20-year-old team videographer Declan Sullivan in October. Amidst a hurricane, Sullivan was ordered onto a fifty-foot high "scissor lift" to videotape practice. Coach Kelly was apparently still angry that the previous day’s practice had to be conducted inside, and practice, even in inclement weather, demands to be recorded. After the tower blew over, killing Sullivan, practice continued another twenty-five minutes. Sullivan’s death wasn’t just an accident. It was utter negligence.
As school president, the Reverend John Jenkins correctly said in an e-mail to students, “Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care and we failed to keep him safe."
But Reverend Jenkins also defended the man in charge, saying, "Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame. All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief."
The Sullivan story was awful enough. Now there is the emerging truth behind the September 10 suicide of first-year student at neighboring St. Mary's college Elizabeth Seeberg. Seeberg overdosed on antidepressants ten days after telling friends and campus police that a University of Notre Dame football player had sexually assaulted her.
After the alleged attack on August 31, Seeberg wrote an account of what took place, was treated at a local hospital and gave DNA samples to the authorities. There is no evidence that the case was taken seriously, and the accused player, who has been neither charged nor cleared, remained on the team. In the days following her statement to police, Seeberg, according to reports, became fearful that she would be outed as someone hurting the team. She made a point of wearing her Fighting Irish gear around campus and getting fake ND tattoos on her face, all the better to blend in. It all proved to be too much for her, and the 19-year-old, who had dreams of becoming a nurse, took her own life. She was found in her dorm room by rape-crisis coordinators who were alarmed that she’d missed her latest session.