UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State officials say they did their homework and thoroughly investigated an ongoing rape case involving former Vanderbilt football players to find out if new coach James Franklin was involved in any wrongdoing.
"This whole process of vetting was maybe the most thorough vetting process of any search perhaps of any position at this university," PSU Athletic Director Dave Joyner said. "We utilized multiple independent third-party sources. We used contacts and people that knew James closely, including officials and administrators from Vanderbilt."
Four football players have been charged with rape, and a fifth took a plea deal after getting charged with trying to cover up the incident, which occurred in June. All of the players were dismissed from the Vanderbilt football team.
Franklin was accused by an unidentified person of instructing a player to delete video or photo evidence. Prosecutors in Tennessee have said there is no evidence linking Franklin to any wrongdoing, but Penn State has drawn criticism from some national media members for hiring a coach affiliated in any way with that situation so soon after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
"I asked him a lot of questions relative to issues at Vanderbilt last summer," PSU President Rodney Erickson said. "He was very open, very honest, very forthright."
Franklin, who in the fall called the accusations against him "baseless," was asked about the matter Saturday and how it was brought up by PSU officials during his interviews.
"Couldn't have been a more thorough interview process," Franklin said. "We discussed everything. [The rape case was] the most challenging thing that I've ever been through personally as a father of two daughters and professionally. But what I think that came out through all of this, through their background checks and all the information that they got, is that we were honest. We were up front.
"We made decisions quickly and tried to do everything we possibly could to respect the situation with the utmost class."
Joyner added his thoughts on the matter once Franklin finished his response.
"My belief, without a doubt, is that James Franklin is a man of extremely high character," Joyner said.
Franklin also drew some criticism in 2012 when, during a radio interview, he said that before he would hire an assistant, he wanted to see the coach's wife.
"If she looks the part, and she's a D-I recruit, then you got a chance to get hired," he said on the radio.
The comments were criticized at the time for being insensitive, and Franklin later apologized.
"We probed on that issue a good deal," Erickson said. "It was a case where a discussion took place around the 'Moneyball' movie, and Coach Franklin made what was a very unfortunate - he would say stupid - comment.
"We've checked with a number of individuals, and he has a long track record of working with and living with women he admires very much."