Penn State hired Vanderbilt’s James Franklin to replace Bill O’Brien as head coach. The move has raised criticism from multiple columnists, arguing Franklin should not be hired because he was coach when four Vanderbilt players were charged with rape. It’s worth establishing what we know happened here.
* Vanderbilt dismissed four players – Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, Tip McKenzie and Brandon Vandenburg – from the football team on June 29th, 2013 as the Nashville police sex crimes unit began investigating an alleged crime that occurred June 23rd. The players were also suspended indefinitely from the university and banned from campus.
* The four former players were charged in August with five counts of aggravated rape and four counts of sexual battery. Vandenburg was also charged with unlawful pornography and tampering with evidence. A fifth player Chris Boyd was charged with being part of an attempted coverup. Boyd was suspended indefinitely and, in September, dismissed from the program after agreeing to testify as part of a plea deal.
* Buzzfeed reported in September that “a source close to one of the defendants” claimed to be “99.9 percent sure” Franklin had seen tape of the incident and instructed the player to delete it. Franklin, through his attorney, emphatically denied the allegation. District Attorney General Tom Thurman asserted there was “no evidence whatsoever” that Franklin had covered up the incident or done anything wrong.
* Two California-based defense attorneys for Vandenburg filed a motion to obtain Vanderbilt coaches’ text messages along with other allegedly withheld evidence. The District Attorney has attempted to get one of those attorneys, Albert Perez Jr., thrown off the case for allegedly conspiring to tamper with evidence.
* Well before the incident in May 2012, Franklin aroused controversy for a comment about hiring confident assistant coaches on Clay Travis’ radio show. He apologized shortly after. It’s not entirely clear how this was relevant to an aggravated rape.
“I’ve been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant until I see his wife. If she looks the part and she’s a D1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That’s part of the deal. There’s a very strong correlation between having the confidence, going up and talking to a woman, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being articulate and confident, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him.”
From what we can establish, Franklin found out about the incident, cooperated with the investigation and summarily dismissed his players. The DA investigating said there was “no evidence whatsoever” Franklin did anything wrong. Presumably, this was issue 1A that came up with schools interviewing Franklin. Especially at Penn State. Penn State, presumably, found nothing untoward.
What’s not clear is why Penn State should have a different standard regarding sexual assault. The same stringent standards should be applied at every university. It’s hard to find a football program that has not dealt with a player accused of sex crimes. National Champions Florida State, to name just one recent example, are facing a potential civil suit stemming from their Heisman-winning quarterback.
Franklin has either done something wrong that would preclude him from employment at any university, or he has not. If he has done something wrong, he should have been fired from Vanderbilt and have been precluded from employment for every other head coaching job. If one program shouldn’t hire Franklin, every program shouldn’t hire Franklin.
Penn State, Vanderbilt, and law enforcement, who have been able to speak with Franklin, seem confident he has done nothing wrong.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]