Posted by Adam Jacobi
This is an interview with a current video assistant at a major college football program, whose role with the team is similar to that of Declan Sullivan, the Notre Dame student who died in the tragic tower collapse yesterday. To allow the assistant to speak candidly about the story and protect both his job and his program, we will not name the assistant or the team.
What's your official job title, and how long have you been doing film for this program?
Student Video Assistant, in my 3rd season.
And what, primarily, does that job entail?
We are responsible for taping all practices and games. For the normal practice, we have four cameras: two sideline, two end zone. Two cameras for the normal game. Typically, a student arrives an hour before practice, receives a schedule of what is to be taped, and has to be in place before practice begins. At that point, the video coordinator and students are responsible for taping whatever the coaches request be taped -- usually a given camera will be rolling for probably 70% of practice. After practice, the students and video coordinator are responsible for preparing the video so that it is immediately available for coaches. A good video staff will have most of practice available to view before practice is even finished, and all of it ready to view within 15 minutes of practice finishing.
How often do you use telescoping hydraulic tower lifts?
Most programs, when practicing outdoors, use hydraulic scissor lifts or a lift that is very similar to a cherry picker. We use hydraulic lifts every practice.
Do the lifts have any warnings about high wind?
Most lifts have a number of warnings, including one concerning wind. Generally, it is not advised to use them in winds over about 25 mph.
Have you ever gone up in one when it was windier than 25 mph?
Multiple times, although not a ton.
What's it like up in one of those when it's windy?
The normal lift will sway slightly in a light wind, probably 10-15 mph. If it gets really windy, it's a noticeable sway, although it has to get quite windy to have it sway more than an inch or so.
Have you ever felt unsafe in one of those?
After getting past the initial time up in the lift when just starting out, probably 3 or 4 times, either due to winds that were probably over 30 mph, or due to lightning in the area. Winds can be scary; lightning can be scarier.
The thing is, any student that has gone up in one of those lifts always has that moment where you wonder what you'd do if the lift tipped over -- kind of a doomsday scenario thing. It runs through your head, even when it's nice and sunny out.
Did your team practice inside or outside when the high winds came through?
This week? Inside.
Is there ever a time when the team is practicing outside and the video assistants don't go up in one of the lifts out of safety concerns?
Generally, if the team is practicing outside, there is an expectation that it will be filmed outside. There has been only one time that the student crew was summoned to the ground, and that came from the video director.
Why was that?
A thunderstorm was moving into the area, and being 50+ feet in the air in a metal lift, for lack of a better term, scares the crap out of you when lightning is striking around you.
How did the coaches react to you coming down? Did the practice stay outside or move in?
They were not pleased at all, and "requested" that we get back in the air as soon as we could. There's a bit of an intimidation factor there.
Is that consistent with how you're treated by coaches (high expectations, etc.)?
It's one of those jobs where they don't care til something goes wrong.
But you enjoy it, right?
Love it. Don't want to do anything else.
Before Declan Sullivan's tragedy happened, if the coaches had asked you to get into the lift with winds gusting at 50-60 mph, would you have?
Similarly, do you think the coaches ever would have asked you to do so?
I would hope not, but you never know. Coaches have tunnel vision. But ultimately, common sense out of administrators is critical.
Last question, I don't want to make you speak for coaches and programs you've never been a part of, so I won't ask about things changing nationwide as a result of the Sullivan tragedy, but at your program, do you see any shifts in policy concerning lift usage coming?
Possibly, although common sense should still take precedence. I don't doubt Declan felt he had to be there. The video coordinator, head coach, and athletic director all have some serious issues on their hands.