The University of Notre Dame's athletic director had few answers Thursday about the death of 20-year-old Declan Sullivan, who was filming football practice from a tower that fell under high winds.
"There is a lot to learn here. We will learn it all; we will learn it in an expeditious manner," AD Jack Swarbrick promised during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Notre Dame says it will play its home game against Tulsa on Saturday, but a pep rally has been canceled. Swarbrick said there were discussions about postponing the game, but the team will play in tribute to Sullivan. Players will wear decals on their helmets honoring him, and there will be a moment of silence beforehand, he said.
Just before the practice began, Sullivan posted Twitter messages in which he said "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work ... I guess I've lived long enough."
Less than an hour before the accident, he tweeted again, saying it was "terrifying" to be on the tower in the high winds.
The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the Long Grove, Ill., student's death has been classified as a workplace fatality, and it will look into whether the tower was being operated safely, including whether it should have been used in 51-mph wind gusts.
While it's unclear which company manufactured the scissor lift, instruction manuals for similar models say they should not be used in winds stronger than 25 mph.
Swarbrick described a normal practice that quickly became chaotic on Wednesday. He said he was walking along the football field when the wind picked up and equipment began flying.
"I turned to face north and experienced a pretty extraordinary burst of wind. Things started flying by me that had been stationary for all of practice — Gatorade containers, towels, etc. I noticed the netting by the goal post start to bend dramatically and I heard a crash," he said.
Swarbrick said training staff, medical trainers, coaches and players responded to Sullivan but, after emergency workers arrived, the team went back to the field so the rescuers could help the student. The team evidently continued to practice, leaving the field roughly 20 to 30 minutes after the accident. Sullivan was taken to a South Bend hospital, but Swarbrick said he received a call from the ambulance before it arrived and was told that Sullivan wasn't breathing.
Sullivan's parents met with Notre Dame officials Thursday morning, but his uncle said many of their questions remain unanswered. Though his parents expect those answers in time, they are more focused on mourning their son's death, said Mike Miley, Sullivan's uncle.
"We'll be asking those questions, too," Miley said. "But right now, we're grieving a loss."
Rainey, King off suspensions
Florida's Chris Rainey and Georgia's Caleb King will be back in the spotlight Saturday, playing starring roles in what essentially will be an elimination game in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division. Rainey, suspended the last five games after he was arrested for allegedly sending a threatening text message to a former girlfriend, was fully reinstated following practice Thursday. Coach Urban Meyer said Rainey "had a good week," doing everything asked of him "and beyond."
King is coming off a two-game suspension for failing to take care of a speeding ticket. Their returns come at a much-needed time for Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) and Georgia (4-4, 3-3).
WAC retains Nevada, Fresno for another season
Nevada and Fresno State have agreed to play one more season in the Western Athletic Conference before transferring to the Mountain West Conference in 2012 and will pay significantly less to make the move than the WAC had demanded, the league said Thursday. The two schools wanted to make the change next year, but WAC officials filed a lawsuit that said they failed to provide proper notice to leave the league and would owe the WAC a $5 million departure fee.
WAC Commissioner Karl Benson announced Thursday they reached an agreement that allows the schools to make the jump effective June 30, 2012, for a buyout of $900,000 each. That means both of their football and basketball seasons will begin in the Mountain West with the 2012 season.
Around the nation
Tennessee: Prentiss Waggner could play cornerback this week in an effort to bolster the depth there. The sophomore has started every game at strong safety this season but practiced this week at cornerback to fill in for sophomore Marsalis Teague, who is recovering from a turf toe injury he suffered in the Volunteers' loss to Alabama on Saturday.
Michigan State: Defensive back Chris L. Rucker was reinstated Thursday after serving eight days in jail following a drunken-driving arrest. Coach Mark Dantonio said it would be Rucker's decision whether he travels with the team when the No. 5 Spartans play Saturday at No. 18 Iowa. Rucker, a senior, started 11 games last season and the first six this season for the Spartans.
Missouri: The school says it won't seek trespassing charges against 30 fans who were arrested for rushing the field after Saturday's big win over Oklahoma. Many critics, including a student group and a state lawmaker, had called on the university to drop the matter. They said it was unfair that 30 people were singled out from the huge crush of fans who tore down the goal posts and carried them out of the stadium. They also noted that the school had offered pictures of the celebration for sale and posted photos online.
Friday's game: Connecticut (3-4, 0-2) has yet to win a conference game and West Virginia (5-2, 1-1) is coming off a 19-14 loss at home to Syracuse that dropped them out of the Top 25. Both teams are looking to Friday's matchup in East Hartford (8 p.m., ESPN2) as a chance to regain momentum. West Virginia is 6-0 against Connecticut. The Huskies, who are 3-0 at home, are trying to bounce back from consecutive conference losses at Rutgers and Louisville.