It has been a sobering past few days for Vanderbilt’s football program, ever since the news broke last Friday that four players had been suspended and then later dismissed from the team amid an investigation by the Nashville Metro Police sex crimes unit.
The first thing to keep in mind here is that these are only allegations at this point and no arrests have been made. The names of the dismissed players have not been released and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin isn’t talking.
This is a university matter, and the release Saturday that the players had been dismissed from the team and banned from campus came from Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for public affairs.
Police officials have said the case they’re investigating stems from an incident at a Vanderbilt University dorm. Typically, it’s freshmen and younger players who are living in the dorms.
But again, it’s unfair to jump to any conclusions. We all remember what happened in the Duke lacrosse case.
While I haven’t spoken to Franklin, I have talked with several in and around the Vanderbilt program, and Franklin's sick that something like this has even been alleged about players in his program. He and his staff have worked tirelessly to advance Vanderbilt’s football program in every way, and they take immense pride in doing it the right way.
Still, if these allegations prove to be true, it’s the kind of blow to a program that can be staggering.
I’ve had a chance to get to know several of the Vanderbilt players over the years, and they’ve all been classy kids. For me, seeing the way Zac Stacy interacted with children in the classroom as a volunteer teacher last year trumped any of the 1,000 yards he gained each of the past two seasons.
I’ve never believed that the actions of a few automatically reflect the character of an entire group, and that goes for any team. But the actions of a few can sure ruin it for an entire team, or at the very least, make things a lot more difficult.
Franklin may face his most daunting challenge yet if these allegations are true, and that’s whether any of the players dismissed have ever played a down for the Commodores. The timing couldn’t be worse with recruiting kicking into full gear and the start of preseason practice about a month away.
We’ll wait and let the legal process run its course. But if crimes of the nature Nashville police are investigating did indeed take place, then it’s the victim (or victims) that our thoughts should be with first and foremost.
Everything else is secondary.