On August 21, four Vanderbilt University football players pleaded not guilty to felony charges that they raped a 21-year-old Vandy student during the summer. The charges are heinous: according to police reports, the four players entered a dorm room on Vanderbilt’s campus and raped the unconscious woman, and they were charged with five counts each of aggravated rape and two counts each of aggravated sexual assault.
Jaborian McKenzie was one of those players. And now Jaborian McKenzie is playing football again.
He’s not playing for Vanderbilt, because Vandy dismissed all four players — McKenzie, Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, and Brandon Vandenburg — from both the team and the university, and it suspended a fifth, star wide receiver Chris Boyd, who faces lesser charges stemming from the assault. But after paying his $50,000 bail and pleading not guilty, McKenzie found a new home and a new team at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, where he caught one pass for 14 yards and returned three kickoffs for 80 yards in last Saturday’s game against Mississippi State, the Nashville Post reported. McKenzie isn’t listed on Alcorn State’s official roster, but he is listed in the latest game recap and is listed on ESPN.com as playing for the Braves.
There are questions, if not substantial proof, about whether Vanderbilt coach James Franklin saw a video of the rape and acted to cover it up. But again, from what little information is available, Vanderbilt seems to be making every attempt to handle this case correctly, unlike Notre Dame and Steubenville High School and the countless other schools where football players have been charged with rape and allowed to play again. There are reasons for that: Vanderbilt, despite its membership in the Southeastern Conference, is one of the few schools in major college sports that doesn’t prioritize football (or other sports) above all else. Nashville, the university’s home, is one of the few cities or towns in major college sports that doesn’t brim with passion and excitement at everything Vanderbilt does.
And in the end, none of that matters, because the message here is clear: a player can face felony rape charges and his school can handle it the way it should, and a new school that cares too much about football and too little about everything else will be there to let that kid play.