Exactly a week after four Vanderbilt players were charged with rape and other crimes after an investigation, a fifth player faces charges related to the incident. And unlikely the other four players -- who would largely be adding depth to the roster -- this one would hurt Vanderbilt more from a football perspective, though that's really the least important part of this.
First things first: Wide receiver Chris Boyd has been suspended from the team after being indicted for "accessory after the fact," which means he's not being charged with being part of the rape but is being charged with later helping those players who allegedly did rape the victim.
Police accused Boyd of essentially taking part in an attempted cover up of the sexual assault through advice to certain defendants indicted last week as part of the ongoing investigation.
The university, as you might expect, is being rather circumspect about the issue at the moment. Its statement about Boyd's suspension is not exactly terse, but it's also very guarded and lawyerly.
All of these allegations, including those brought today, are deeply troubling, and we take them very seriously. ...
We continue to respect that at this point in the criminal justice process no determination of guilt has been made.
For now, Boyd is the only player aside from the original four to be indicted in the case. (Two others who were charged Friday are not on the team. There were always rumors that more Vanderbilt students might be involved, and the trail might end here -- but it also might not.
"Today's indictment reflects the hundreds of law enforcement hours that have gone into this case thus far, and the absolute seriousness of this entire matter," Chief Steve Anderson said in a statement. "We are looking at all persons who may have been involved in this event, before, during and after the fact. Additional charges cannot be ruled out." [Emphasis added]
Getting to the football element: This is the worst news yet for the Commodores as far as on-the-field ramifications. Boyd was the team's second-leading receiver in 2012, catching 50 passes for 774 yards and five touchdowns. And Boyd's 15.5 yard-per-catch average was the highest of any returning player. He and Jordan Matthews were the only players with more than 12 catches on the year.
Add his potential loss for any stretch of time at the beginning of the season to the need to break in Austyn Carta-Samuels as quarterback, and you've got the potential for some real problems for the Vanderbilt air attack. And then add in the fact that Vanderbilt will face two SEC opponents in the first three weeks of the season.
The situation was already terrible for the victim, the players involved and the reputation of James Franklin's program. Now, it's getting increasingly dire for Vanderbilt on the field as well, and the best hope might be for it to simply not get any worse.