Two Former Vanderbilt Football Players Guilty of Rape

The defense gatherers after the jury was read the charges against Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn. Vandenburg and Batey, two former Vanderbilt football players, are each charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, John Partipilo, Pool) John Partipilo POOL The Tennessean

On July 1, 2011, Cory Batey, a rising senior football player at Nashville’s Ensworth High School committed to Vanderbilt University live on our 3HL radio show. Batey was one of three commits that day for new coach James Franklin’s first full recruiting class at Vandy. Batey, a three star recruit with offers from Kentucky and Minnesota, joined Brian Kimbrow and Caleb Azubike, who were both four star recruits, in choosing Vanderbilt over a bevy of traditional football powers. All three players sat at tables on D1 Sports’s indoor football field in suburban Nashville. It was a hot day, a large industrial fan spun above the tables as each player, wearing a shirt and tie, looked over an array of hats in front of them. 

I held the mic out for Batey as he committed to Vanderbilt and I heard his family exult behind me. It was a great day of radio, a moment when a kid’s dreams are realized and his family shares in the joy. But it was more than that too. It was a day that was to herald a new era in Vanderbilt athletics, the day the Commodores, long derided as a conference afterthought, demonstrated they could beat out the blue blood SEC football powers and sign top in-state recruits.

As Batey announced for Vanderbilt I could hear his family cheering. Batey’s mom was a lab technician at Vanderbilt’s hospital. Soon to graduate from the elite Ensworth High School and attend Vanderbilt University on a full scholarship, now her son, whose father died when he was five years old, would walk the campus she’d traversed so many times as an employee. It was a full-blown success story, football as an avenue to a better life, using the ball rather than the ball using you. On that day in July of 2011 Batey was a Nashville role model to be emulated, a young man with such a bright future that when he put on sunglasses to walk outside it seemed like a metaphor for something much more than protection for his eyes from a sunny day: His future was so bright, he needed shades.  

Yesterday, on his 21st birthday, Batey was found guilty of seven counts of rape, guilty of brutally raping an innocent Vanderbilt student on a summer day in 2013, just less than two years to the day after he announced he’d attend Vanderbilt on our radio show. How could this have happened?

This morning I woke up trying to reconcile the space between those two moments, from the pride of a future filled with unexplored promise to a grief so all-encompassing that his mother could barely stand as the convictions were read in court. Watch this video from inside the courtroom and tell me you aren’t sick to your stomach about everything you see. 

It’s easy to draw bright lines in life, we all do it. We all decide that someone is either good or bad, a saint or a devil. It’s easier if we pretend that good and bad aren’t intermixed, that someone who does good was always going to do good and someone who does evil was always going to do evil. It’s easier to think this way, but it’s not true. We all contain great magnitudes, the distance between the right and wrong choice is frequently slim. 

I don’t know Cory Batey or any of the other three Vanderbilt defendants in this case, but I’ve felt a connection to him and the other two boys who announced for Vanderbilt on our radio show since that day. I wanted them to succeed, I wanted the promise of that afternoon to blossom into a beautiful story of triumph against all adversities.

So as the ugly details of the Vanderbilt rape case came to me from all sides — it was amazing how many connections Outkick had to all angles of this case, from the players to the victim to the attorneys to the investigators — I decided not to write about the details on here or talk about the details on the radio. I’ve known for a year and a half pretty much every detail of this case. I broke the news that all four players were going to be charged with aggravated rape, but other than that I’ve stayed pretty quiet. I decided not to write or talk much about the case for two reasons: 1. Our radio show was so popular in Nashville that once we went public with details of the case I worried that it would be impossible for an impartial jury to be empaneled in the city and 2. One particular alleged detail was so explosive that I knew it would vault the case into a national story. But even if the detail went public I wasn’t sure whether it would be admitted as evidence in court. If the detail came out before the trial and all the jurors knew about it, but it was never admitted as evidence at trial, could an impartial jury really consider the facts in the case without prejudice?

I still wrestled with whether to write about the case and reveal what I knew, but ultimately I couldn’t stop thinking about the day of that announcement. I kept hearing the cheers of his mother in the background as Batey put on his Vanderbilt University hat. How in the world was this, the brutal rape of an innocent Vanderbilt student, the way this story ended? I never watched the video from that night, but I just kept hoping that somehow, someway, every single person involved on that night hadn’t been involved in an awful and tragic crime that would echo for generations. I didn’t want the ending of this story to be as bad as it was. I hoped the case wouldn’t go to trial, that a plea agreement could be reached, and everyone involved could try and remake their life. 

So I decided I wouldn’t write what I’d been told by multiple people representing every angle of the case until the charges had been decided by a jury. The most egregious and explosive accusation against Batey has never been made public until now. Indeed, there has been a year-long court battle in the state over unsealing these investigative records. In the initial investigative report into the rape, which has still not been unsealed, Batey was accused of urinating on his white victim while saying, “That’s for 300 years of slavery, bitch.”

It was a charge so explosive that prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges all decided it couldn’t be made public or even introduced as evidence at trial. Batey denied ever making the comment and proving whether or not he did complicated an already difficult case, but it’s included in the investigative record and it’s a detail that would have overtaken everything else about the case.

Now that a just verdict’s out, I’m still left with that sick feeling in my stomach. How did a path filled with such promise for all four players, become such a tragedy? And why, despite all this, do I feel so awful for what happened to the victim yet still feel such empathy for these four players and their families? 

Ultimately I’m left with one question that I can’t resolve, how did we ever get from that July day in 2011 to here?

I have no idea. I doubt I ever will.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.