The Vanderbilt football program is in uncharted waters in more ways than one. Not since 1915 have the Commodores started their schedule coming off a 9-win season. And another first; four former players have been charged in a disgusting rape case that will likely challenge the coaching powers of James Franklin and his staff. It will also challenge the chemistry of his football team and his program's standing on campus and the Nashville community.
Coach Franklin has steadfastly maintained that his team's focus is squarely on the season opener vs. Ole Miss and right now that is probably the case. But that focus and concentration may certainly be put to the test in the weeks and months ahead.
For one thing as of four days ago; Nashville PD had not closed the book on additional charges being filed for more than the four arrested. That's disconcerting.
Five players, including probable #1 quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels are on the witness list. Though highly unlikely the case will come to trial during this football season, it might be a little distracting to know you may have to answer questions about former teammates that could put them away in prison for the next 25 years. That might weigh on your mind a little bit.
The other thing is these four players no doubt have friends on the team. Deals are likely going to be cut among the four causing friendships to be fractured. These fractures could impact the locker room in ways we will never see.
Also, depending upon the way this case plays out, as more information is revealed, the perception of the football team and program could be greatly effected on campus and the community; good or bad. The fact the players are no longer on the team will not change that.
James Franklin has done an incredible job with the Vanderbilt program. If you'll remember on our Year in Review Show I said he was my SEC Coach of the Year. But now he has to deal with an issue for which there is no chapter in the coach's handbook. His mettle and the mettle of his program is about to be tested.