Vanderbilt University has dismissed four football players from the team and suspended them from the university as the result of a sex crimes investigation.
A statement on the school’s web site says only that the four were dismissed from the team and suspended “for violation of team rules.”
“The well-being of our students is of paramount concern to us, and we will not tolerate any actions that threaten student safety and security,” Beth Fortune, Vanderbilt vice chancellor for public affairs, said in a statement Saturday.
In its brief statement, the school noted that “Vanderbilt first reported the matter that led to the dismissals to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and is fully cooperating with the Metro Police investigation.”
“They may not return to campus for any purpose without explicit permission from the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity,” according to the statement.
The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reported Saturday that “Metro police and Vanderbilt’s administration were keeping a tight lid on details of the incident and no arrests had been made as of Friday night.”
“I can confirm that the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit began an investigation on Wednesday in regard to a matter that was alleged to have occurred at a Vanderbilt University dormitory,” Don Aaron, spokesman for Metro police, told The Tennessean. “Our sex crimes detectives became involved as the result of a notification to us on Wednesday from Vanderbilt University police. The investigation remains very much in progress.”
Named for shipping and rail magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, the private university in Nashville has about 12,000 students.
“Under head coach James Franklin, the Commodores enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in recent history in 2012,” writes columnist Tyler Conway on the “Bleacher Report” sports web site. “In his second season, the 41-year-old Franklin led a renaissance in a program that has historically struggled. After starting the campaign off 2-4, the Commodores reeled off seven consecutive wins…. Vanderbilt defeated North Carolina State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl to cap off the late-season run, just their third bowl win in school history.”
“Franklin returns next season with expectations high for a repeat performance,” writes Conway. “While there is still plenty to be investigated in this matter, the Commodores will certainly feel the blow of losing four players should the suspensions last into the 2013 season.” So far, Coach Franklin has not commented on the matter.
The news from Vanderbilt follows several other recent instances of football players charged with sexual misconduct.
The US Naval Academy last week charged three Navy football players with sexually assaulting a female midshipman at an off-campus house last year. The academy said in a news release that the male midshipmen are being charged with rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct, and making a false official statement.
“We teach our guys more than blocking and tackling, trying to do what’s right,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said this week, as reported by the Washington Post. “All we want is the truth to come out. We believe in the judicial system. We believe in our country and its judicial system. Our main concern is that the truth comes out, and whatever it is, that justice is served.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports, two Connecticut high school football players have been charged in sexual assault cases that, like a recent high-profile Ohio rape case, have led to online taunts directed at an accuser.
The two 18-year-old Torrington High School players were charged with felony second-degree sexual assault and other crimes last month in cases involving different 13-year-old girls.
In the Ohio case, two Steubenville High School football players were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile jail after being found guilty of assaulting a drunken 16-year-old girl. The case bitterly divided the city and led to accusations of a cover-up to protect the athletes.