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New Penn State Coach James Franklin Shadowed by Vandy Rape Case

In the wake of the horrific Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, another sex crime case associated with the football team is the last thing Penn State University needs.

But that’s just what Penn State got when administrators hired new head coach James Franklin, whose former team at Vanderbilt has been mired in controversy since a group of players allegedly gang raped a young woman last summer.

Accordingly, a group of Penn State professors, students, and alumni started a petition last week, attempting to deter the university from hiring James Franklin as the team’s new football coach.

Michelle Rodino-Colocino, the professor who started the position, said the alleged gang rape perpetrated by members of the Vanderbilt University football team while Franklin was head coach, was the main reason for her objection.

“Our university needs to stand up for human rights,” Rodino-Colocino, an associate professor of communications, wrote in the petition.

Others who had signed the petition Friday expressed concern about negative attention for Penn State as the university continues to rebuild its reputation after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

“Just think we don’t need this type of associative (at least) distraction in trying to get our team back in place,” one man wrote.

The petition was unsuccessful, and ultimately the school did hire Franklin.

But concerns raised by opponents of Franklin may not disappear so easily.

Franklin has denied an allegation made to a local news reporter that he encouraged a player to delete a video of the alleged gang rape, which one of the players had captured on a cell phone. And authorities in Nashville have not charged Franklin or named him as a suspect in the case.

Prosecutes say a video shot by one of the players shows the alleged victim being assaulted in a dorm room while she was unconscious. Five Vanderbilt players face criminal charges in connection with the case.

No evidence has emerged proving that Franklin attempted to cover up a crime, as was alleged, but even if he did nothing wrong, his connection to the case is troubling for a university still reeling from it’s leaders’ decisions to look the other way and ignore Sandusky’s crimes for so many years.

During his tenure at Vanderbilt, Franklin also came under fire when he told a reporter that he likes to hire assistant coaches who have “attractive wives,” because he sees it as a sign of self-confidence.

Surely there were many other highly-qualified candidates for the job. The fact that Penn State hired Franklin, despite the the shadows that follow him from Vanderbilt, makes one wonder if Penn State officials are once again prioritizing the success of the football team above all else.

Placing too much importance on the football program is the very mindset that allowed Jerry Sandusky to go on raping young boys on and off campus for years after his crimes were first reported.

As for the Vanderbilt rape case (the details of which are quite troubling)–the resulting objections to James Franklin voiced by some at Penn State may be a case of unfair “guilt by association.” Nevertheless, these objections are understandable. Considering all the darkness that has shadowed College Station over the last few years, this is the kind of “association” many Penn State alumni would no doubt rather avoid.

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