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Irish to honor Sullivan at game Saturday

Sam Werner | Thursday, October 28, 2010

Notre Dame will honor junior Declan Sullivan with helmet decals and a pregame moment of silence before its game Saturday against Tulsa, Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick said in a press conference Thursday.

Sullivan, a videographer for the football team, died Wednesday after the tower he was filming practice from collapsed.

The University canceled its usual Friday football luncheon and pep rally.

Swarbrick said the athletic department’s primary focus was the emotional well-being of the students and staff involved with the football program.

“It’s the nature of this place and being part of the team,” he said. “Their response was emotional, and our focus is them and Declan. I’m not focused on … our performance on the field.”

He said the University considered postponing Saturday’s game.

“Certainly we talked about it,” Swarbrick said. “You don’t just move forward without considering all of that, and we had a discussion about whether we thought I appropriate to play the game as scheduled. We concluded that it was. We concluded that it was because it’s an opportunity to honor Declan.”

While the game will continue as planned Saturday, Swarbrick said it would be dedicated to Sullivan’s memory.

“In the extraordinary emotions that sort of overwhelmed me in the past almost 24 hours, thinking about how we’re going to do on Saturday is not one of them,” he said. “We care about winning and losing here, but it doesn’t matter right now.”

Irish coach Brian Kelly and Notre Dame players will not be available to the media until after Saturday’s game. The University called off Kelly’s Thursday press conference and radio show.

“[Kelly] is the head of that group of student-athletes and students,” Swarbrick said. “And we want him focused on them.

“We’re going to leave the team and coaching staff to deal with this in a private manner through Saturday.”

Swarbrick said he met with Kelly and the entire Irish coaching staff shortly after he received word of Sullivan’s death. In what he called an “emotional evening,” he tried to provide support to Kelly and the coaches.

As a videographer, Sullivan was an important part of the Irish football program, Swarbrick said.

“There is an intensity that attaches to the experience of being part of a team, part of an athletic program, and Declan was part of that program,” Swarbrick said. “So the sorrow is felt in many ways even greater.”

Swarbrick said the team would practice inside the Loftus Sports Center Thursday and Friday as the University’s investigation of the cause of the accident gets underway.

“We’ll do our best under these circumstances just to prepare our football team,” Swarbrick said. “But this isn’t about the game so much as it is about the young man and making sure that we take care of him and we honor him.”

Notre Dame plays Tulsa at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.