After more than a week of silence as a police investigation as to whether or not a sex crime occurred on the Vanderbilt campus, the football team has issued a release naming the four players that have been tied to the inquiry. Tip McKenzie, Cory Batey, and Brandon Banks - all second-year players for James Franklin - have been identified as the student-athletes who are no longer with the team. Junior college transfer Brandon Vandenburg was also dismissed from the program.
The news comes just one day before SEC Media Days would have poured additional scrutiny onto the program. The Commodores were expected to release an updated roster on Tuesday as part of the annual event. Rather than allow the media to compare this roster to the 2012 listing and draw their own conclusions, the football program is hoping that this announcement will stem the tide of questions regarding the incident and allow reporters to focus on the upcoming season instead. Whether or not that will be successful is very much up in the air.
None of the players removed from the team were established contributors, but all four would have made an impact in 2013. McKenzie was primed to earn snaps for the offense out of the slot after a strong spring showing put his athleticism on display. Vandenburg, who was ranked the #2 overall junior college recruit by ESPN, was slated as a potential starter amongst a tight end group that is primed for a player to break out this fall. Banks and Batey, both defensive backs, would have contributed to special teams and added to the team's depth in the secondary.
Instead of contributing to one of the SEC's fastest rising programs, these four will await the results of the MNPD's investigation while keeping a safe distance from Vanderbilt's Nashville campus. Each player can appeal the ruling that has barred them from entering school property, but all four have remained quiet in light of the ongoing process.
This identification is another step forward in moving past one of the ugliest incidents to ever hit the Vanderbilt football program. The players involved were first suspended, then quickly dismissed from the football program as scrutiny grew around the potential scandal. Now, with four names to go with the investigation, rumors surrounding other members of the program can stop, and the victim of any potential crime can feel another step closer to closure. We'll have more updates as the continue to roll in.