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Accident prompts review

Claire Heininger | Friday, September 24, 2004

Last week’s auto accident involving a University-issued van driven by a member of the Notre Dame men’s golf team has led the athletic department to re-examine its policies regarding student drivers.

“It’s another reason to take a look at what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing it correctly,” Associate Athletic Director John Heisler said. “We’re just trying to get our arms around it and understand the whole thing. [Our evaluation] could be ongoing – it’s not something you determine in just a week.”

The accident occurred Sept. 16, when a semitrailer hit and totaled the van on Interstate 80 as the six golfers inside traveled to a practice session at Lost Dunes Golf Club in Bridgman, Mich. Indiana State Police ticketed freshman golfer Gregory Rodgers at the scene for attempting an illegal U-turn.

Heisler said the athletic department prefers scenarios when coaches drive, but less than ideal circumstances often arise.

“In a perfect world you don’t have students drive, but that may not always be possible,” he said, pointing out that the use of student drivers is not unique to varsity sports teams. Many other organizations that “don’t have the luxury of two to three full-time coaches” are forced to allow students to drive with more regularity, he said.

“It’s a University policy, not necessarily an athletic department policy, so we have to take a look at it within the University framework,” Heisler said.

That framework allows students to drive Notre Dame-owned vehicles after passing a training course, University spokesman Matt Storin said. He was unable to disclose whether or not Rodgers had taken the course.

Storin added there are no current plans to revise student driver policy at the University level.

“I do think it is preliminary to predict changes,” he said.

Notre Dame’s insurance will cover the damages – estimated at $10,000 – to the 2000 blue Chevy van, Storin said.

Due to medical privacy issues, Storin declined to comment on whether or not the University paid the hospital fees of golfer Scott Gustafson, the sole passenger injured in the crash. Gustafson was taken to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center with lacerations to the elbow and has since been released.