According to USA Today, authorities across Tennessee have been called in to determine whether or not a sex crime took place in a dorm at Vanderbilt last week. Four football players, still unnamed and now no longer with the team, have been tied to this incident.
Evidence from the scene was transferred from the Metro Nashville Police Department to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations to be tested in the state's crime lab. While investigators did not reveal the nature of the evidence that was being moved, the need for more sophisticated testing suggests that DNA may play a role.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has remained silent on the issue while the police weigh their case against the four implicated athletes. That puts the school in a tough position. Since it could be a breach of privacy to name the involved parties without formal charges - and commenting on a pending investigation is something that could hinder MNPD's process - the university can't say much about the four players who have been tied to the event. However, this silence has fueled peculation about what happened in that dorm room last Wednesday, who was involved, and what the university is doing to prevent future incidents. While publicly announcing the dismissals of these players was a necessary move, it's done little to quiet the rumors that are filling the void of information coming from both the police and the school.
If this investigation lingers, it could create a disruptive scenario at SEC Media Days. As the Tennessean's David Climer points out, the unofficial start to southern football is just two weeks away, and reporters will be scouring Vanderbilt's first official depth chart of 2013 to figure out just who is missing from the Commodore roster. It's tough to imagine much of the focus being on Vanderbilt's upcoming season while a potential scandal still hangs over the head of this football team.
That's a nightmare scenario for James Franklin and his captains. Players like Jordan Matthews and Carey Spear would have to deflect questions about the investigation rather than talk about the excitement heading into their senior seasons. It would derail the story of the Commodores' turnaround and instead direct all the attention to whatever took place in the last week of June.
Most importantly, the longer this story lingers without charges or an official report from the police, the longer the victim has to wait for justice. As long as Vanderbilt cannot say much outside of its official dismissals there will be little comfort for those who were affected by the events of that fateful night. This is an opportunity for the university to repair the breach of trust that occurred when a potential sex crime happened on campus, but that can't start until this investigation is complete.
Until then, the police, the university, the players, the students, and the fans will all have to wait with baited breath. The sooner this investigation ends, the sooner that all parties can begin the healing process and get back to normal. As we wait for that to happen, the shadow that this has cast over the university and its football program will only continue to grow.