National media examines Vanderbilt rape case; source alleges Franklin told players to dispose of evidence

What remained a largely localized story for roughly two months was thrust into a national spotlight on more than one front Saturday – and with one potentially incendiary item.

The alleged rape of a Vanderbilt co-ed by four former members of the school’s football team was the subject of expansive pieces at BuzzFeed.com and the New York Times. With the latter’s focused on the mindset of the Vanderbilt community in the face of the negative publicity, the former – written by a former Tennessean staffer – closely examines many details of the case including the possibility that coach James Franklin told those involved to destroy evidence.

A source close to one of the defendants said he believes that Franklin encouraged a player to delete a video of the incident after the player showed it to Franklin.

“I’m 99.9 percent sure that Franklin saw the video,” the source said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if the public finds this out soon.”

There was no immediate response from the university to that allegation or other details of the report.

Franklin’s attorney strongly denounced the allegation to BuzzFeed.

“Coach Franklin denies that emphatically,” said Hal Hardin, Franklin’s attorney. “People always speculate and gossip. There is no truth to that accusation whatsoever. It’s inflammatory.

“He has been cooperating fully with the investigation.”

Vanderbilt (0-1) plays Austin Peay, 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. As the Times story noted, university officials used the season-opener against Ole Miss nine days earlier to bring awareness to the need for violence prevention and tolerance on campus.

No such effort had been announced for this game.

“It’s a scandal,” said John Seigenthaler, the former longtime publisher and editor of The Tennessean, told the Times. “There’s no other word for it. It’s the first real criminal scandal with Vanderbilt football. That’s a tough offset.”