Penn State coach grilled on Vanderbilt rape case

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two days after his name surfaced in court filings for having contacted the woman allegedly raped by four of his Vanderbilt football players, Penn State coach James Franklin reiterated that he has cooperated fully with the investigation and that he wouldn’t be saying much else.

“This matter was thoroughly investigated by the authorities and also by Vanderbilt’s internal counsel and external counsel,” he said Thursday. “This is a legal matter, though, and that’s really about all I can say. I want to be as open and transparent as I can be and have been all along.”

In a phone conversation Thursday, Nashville Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman, who is leading the prosecution in the case against the Vanderbilt players, said he has been aware of Franklin’s contact with the alleged victim.

“I can’t comment on it much other than to say the statement we’ve always made is there is no indication that coach Franklin did anything inappropriate in this investigation,” Thurman said.

He said the contact Franklin made with the alleged victim was not significant to the case.

Tuesday, defense attorneys for Brandon Vandenburg, one of the accused former Vanderbilt players, filed a motion asking for their client’s dismissal and in the motion alleged that Franklin and Dwight Galt, now Penn State’s strength and conditioning coach, contacted the victim on June 27, 2013 — four days after the alleged rape — to explain “that they cared about her because she assisted them with recruiting … and that Coach Franklin called her in for a private meeting and told her he wanted her to get fifteen pretty girls 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.”

John Herbison, one of Vandenburg’s attorneys, said Franklin’s contact with the alleged victim was relevant because it happened shortly after the alleged rape.

“The communications that the alleged victim had near to the time of the event are very relevant because she is now claiming … and had claimed then that she is unable to remember what happened,” Herbison said.

Vandenburg and former Vanderbilt teammates Corey Batey, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie have been charged with raping a Vanderbilt woman last June. The trial is set for August.

Wednesday, Penn State had a team meeting, Franklin said, and he said he discussed the recent news about the rape case with his players.

It seems they didn’t learn anything more about the situation, though. Franklin said he essentially told them what he has said publicly.

He spoke Thursday as part of the Penn State coaches caravan. It will include 17 stops throughout Pennsylvania, the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Franklin joked he would need Red Bull for the last seven stops to maintain optimal energy levels.

But his enthusiasm already was being tested Thursday. He responded to three questions about the rape incident. By the fourth, he had grown tired of the questioning and was ready to switch subjects.

“I’ve really said what I can say,” he said. “I’m more than happy to talk about Penn State football.”

Mark Dent:, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.


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