Dealing with tragedy
CINCINNATI – Tommy Tuberville leaves his cell phone on vibrate on the wooden night stand next to his bed.
“I tell people at banquets and meetings that if my phone rings after nine at night it’s not ever any good,” said Tuberville.
Tuberville’s phone rang late Saturday night.
The call he got was telling him three of his University of Cincinnati football players had been in a car accident and were being transported to the UC Medical Center. Tuberville got a second call, as he was he on his way to the hospital, telling him that freshman offensive lineman Ben Flick had lost his life in the accident. Freshmen wide receivers Javon Harrison and Mark Barr were still alive but facing severe injuries.
“That’s not a call you want to get,” said Tuberville Wednesday afternoon after practice. It was his first public comments on the accident. Players were not available for comment.
As much as we like to forget the truth sometimes, especially on Saturday afternoons, these are still kids.
Flick, 19, died at the scene Saturday night in Butler County, hours after UC had defeated Miami 14-0 in Oxford. Sean Van Dyne, 18, was the driver of the vehicle, a student at Miami and a childhood friend of Flick’s. Van Dyne passed away from his injuries on Monday.
Harrison has been released from the hospital but Barr remains in critical condition.
A memorial service was held at Hamilton High School, the alma mater of Flick and Van Dyne, Tuesday evening. Flick was laid to rest on Wednesday.
The Bearcats were back on the field Sunday practicing and scrimmaging as they normally do after a Saturday game. Tuberville said he consulted with several people, including UC Medical Center staff, about the best course of reaction. He decided getting his team back on the field, giving the players a chance to get away from the death of their teammate at least for a couple of hours, was how to best help.
There are no easy answers in this kind of situation. Tragedy and death just force us all to move on somehow, someway, to the best of our abilities.
UC has a bye this week. The Bearcats will honor Flick the remainder of the season by wearing decals on their helmets with Flick’s No. 77 and name beginning with their next game at South Florida on Oct. 5.
“It’s kind of like losing a brother,” said Tuberville. “These guys have rallied, pretty much, around each other. You find out a lot about people when you have things like this. We’ve got a strong bunch of guys that have fought through it. It’s nothing you want to go through again, but it’s nothing they can’t handle. You hate it for the families and for everybody who is going to have to keep dealing with it every day.”
This isn’t the first time Tuberville has had to deal with the death of a player.
Joel Embry was a 21-year-old offensive tackle at the University of Mississippi when he died in May 1998 in a drowning accident. It was the offseason of what would be the fourth, and final, season Tuberville spent at Ole Miss.
“These are kids. These are not adults that have to deal with this,” said Tuberville. “Some have probably never been to a funeral like (Tuesday) and they got their eyes opened. A lot of the guys have never been in an intensive care unit like they’ve gone to this week and walked in and see what they see. But it’s reality.
“I tell them, ‘This is life. This is reality. This is what you’ll deal with the rest of your life.’ I dealt with it there at Ole Miss and it was the same situation. It was tough.”