TAMPA — The death Wednesday of a Notre Dame student who was videotaping practice struck home at USF, which is building new practice fields.
Declan Sullivan, 20, was killed when a Scissor Lift — a portable hydraulic lift that allows videotaping from as high as 40 feet — fell. Winds were at about 30 mph and gusting to 51 mph, according to weather service figures. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he did not know how high Sullivan was.
As part of the approximately $30 million USF is investing in facility upgrades over the next six months, there will be two permanent towers — rather than Scissor Lifts — between the three new practice fields. (It still will use lifts occasionally to tape practice from the end zone.)
One tower — made of steel, 40 feet tall and anchored in a concrete foundation — costs about $80,000, USF executive senior associate athletic director Bill McGillis said Thursday.
"First and foremost, we want to provide our video services staff the most functional and safe surface possible from which to videotape," he said. "This is the very best that you can do from a safety standpoint."
McGillis said USF's greatest safety concern with Scissor Lifts isn't wind but lightning. Members of the support staff have online alerts set to their phones to warn them of it anywhere near campus. USF's lifts are made to withstand winds of up to 50 mph, McGillis said, and the only time winds were strong enough to keep them down was 2004, the day after Hurricane Charley hit Port Charlotte.
Other schools said they make sure to follow the safety instructions from manufacturers. Penn State and Michigan said their lifts are grounded if winds reach 28 mph. On Tuesday and Wednesday, with high winds throughout the Midwest, Michigan practiced with lifts at 15-20 feet.
Texas Tech said students don't use them when winds reach 40 mph and are allowed to go up only 20 feet when they reach 20 mph. Each person on the lift has a hand-held wind monitor.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said it is "not an exact science."
"I leave it up to the video people," he said, "because they're more expert than I am at it."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.