James Franklin managed to leave Vanderbilt, but the sexual assault scandal that dogged much of his final season in Nashville isn't over, and neither apparently is Franklin's involvement. ESPN.com's Brian Bennett broke news yesterday afternoon of a court filing in the sexual assault case against four former Vanderbilt football players which alleges that not only did Franklin know about the incident before news of it broke, but in fact spoke to the victim days after the assault, during a medical exam.
What's more, the filing also contends that Franklin told the victim that he cared about her because she assisted the program with recruiting. How? Well, for purposes beyond the pending criminal case, that's the big news. The ESPN story quotes the Defendant's filing, saying that:
"Coach Franklin called her in for a private meeting and told her he wanted her to get 15 pretty girls together and form a team to assist with the recruiting even though he knew it was against the rules. He added that all the other colleges did it."
Franklin denied reports last fall that he encouraged a Vanderbilt player to delete video of the alleged assault. And that may very well have been the case. But this filing accuses Franklin of actually putting together a cadre of pretty girls to show recruits a good time. That's not something that anyone would find terribly surprising.
But it is unusual for the allegation to be made as part of a public court proceeding, in which people appearing under subpoena can answer questions about the subject. The NCAA's lack of subpoena power is a continual investigative stumbling block. Like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, the enforcement crowd is unbeatable except for than one pesky weakness. His was water. Theirs is the inability to make people who don't want to talk actually spill the beans.
When the NCAA does accomplish something in an investigation, it is often by simply sitting in the courtroom or getting a copy of some well-taken depositions. Here we have four players on trial for a crime, jettisoned by Franklin and the Commodore program, with nothing to lose by spilling their guts about Franklin. That motivation obviously could give one reason to doubt their veracity. But it may also prompt some eye-popping allegations.
It will be interesting to see if anything comes of these allegations, which sound eerily similar to those leveled against the Lane Kiffin regime in Knoxville not long ago. If nothing else, it seems clear that James Franklin's brand new start in Happy Valley may not be quite as clean a break as he might have hoped. It will also be interesting to see how an NCAA enforcement staff which had Penn State in its crosshairs not so long ago will have any questions for the new Penn State coach about the new attitude he engendered in Nashville. Until later . . .