published Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Vandy boots four tied to sex probe

NASHVILLE — Four Vanderbilt University football players on Saturday were kicked off the team and banned from the campus amid a Metro police sex crimes investigation.

“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’s vice chancellor for public affairs, said in a released statement.

A day before, Metro police said that sex crimes detectives were investigating a case that arose Wednesday at a Vanderbilt University dorm. Shortly after revealing that investigation, the university suspended the four players. Both police and school officials have acknowledged that the action against the players was related to Metro’s sex crimes investigation.

Police have declined to elaborate on exactly what they were investigating. None of the players have been named, and no arrests were made by late Saturday.

Many members of the coaching staff were on vacation last week, including head coach James Franklin. Franklin has not returned messages seeking comment, and nobody answered the door at his Green Hills home Saturday. In a Saturday email to The Tennessean, Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams wrote that he had “no statement at this time.”

It’s not unusual for football players to be on campus during summer break. Vanderbilt has nearly 100 players on campus this summer participating in team workouts, and most of them are attending summer classes. Their workouts are supervised by strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt — the coaching staff cannot be involved.

It’s unclear how damaging the case could be to the university or its football program, particularly since the exact nature of the investigation remains secret.

The latest investigation is not the first time police have become involved with Vanderbilt players during Franklin’s tenure.

In May, it was uncovered that the violation of team rules that prompted reserve defensive back Jacquese Kirk’s transfer stemmed from an April 7 nightclub fight in which he admitted to stabbing ex-Vanderbilt offensive lineman Justin Cabbagestalk with a pocket knife, according to police documents. Cabbagestalk, who had his own past run-ins with the law, chose not to press charges.

In November 2011, reserve safety Andre Simmons was suspended indefinitely and later dismissed for involvement in an armed robbery of a fellow student in which about $5,000 was stolen. Simmons was charged with two felonies. The charges were later deferred and he was put on probation.

Other players have been removed for violating team rules. In March, starting defensive tackle Jared Morse was kicked off the team but was readmitted to both the school and team this summer. And in January 2012, starting center Logan Stewart was kicked off the team.

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