Former coach: Dismissed Vanderbilt player 'never a problem' in high school

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 4:51pm

When Vanderbilt dismissed four football players nearly three weeks ago, David King grabbed his phone.

King never remembered Tip McKenzie getting into trouble when he coached him for two years at Trinity Episcopal School in Natchez, Miss. But King wanted to check on his former wide receiver.

“I texted Tip to ask him, ‘Lord, surely that is not you,’ ” King said on Tuesday. “But I never heard from him. I didn’t realize he had gotten a new cell phone number. [Monday] night he texted me and said he was on his way up [to Nashville] with an attorney.”

McKenzie was one of four football players who were kicked off the team on June 28 amid a sex crimes investigation by the Metro Nashville Police Department. On Monday, Vanderbilt released the names of the four dismissed players — redshirt freshmen Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie, Brandon Banks and Cory Batey, and junior college transfer Brandon Vandenburg. None of the players have played in game at Vanderbilt.

No arrests have been made, and the investigation, involving the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney’s office, is ongoing.

McKenzie, 18, was a two-year starter for King, and played wide receiver, running back, quarterback, safety and returned kicks. King, now the headmaster and head football coach at Adams County Christian School in Natchez, said McKenzie was a disciplined student who was at school every day.

“I don’t remember him having a single discipline referral sent to the office the two years he was under my tutelage,” King said. “He was never in trouble one time that I remember. Tip always had his mind set on where he wanted to be athletically. He made his grades and was never a problem that I recall one single time.”

Batey was a wide receiver and defensive back at Ensworth and helped lead the Tigers to consecutive Division II-AA state championships. Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers could not be reached for comment.

Messages left for Danny Hayes, who coached Banks at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., were not returned. Banks, 19, was a defensive back and his brother, Andrew, played at Middle Tennessee State from 2007-11.

Vandenburg attended College of the Desert Community College in Palm Desert, Calif., and was ranked as the third-best junior college tight end in the country, according to College of the Desert coach Dean Dowty did not return a message. His high school coach, Darrell Lewis, was not made available for comment by Xavier College (Calif.) Prep athletic director Mark Campbell.

All four players were recruited by third-year coach James Franklin’s staff.

“I don’t remember any incident that he was ever in trouble for,” King said. “Let’s face it, Vanderbilt doesn’t recruit kids, typically, that would … they do their background checks pretty good. I would think they had done their homework. Coach Franklin came down here himself and recruited him.

“I don’t know anything about the case. I hope justice is served, but I hope Tip is not guilty of anything.”


4 Comments on this post:

By: joe41 on 7/17/13 at 6:09

I hope that these young men survive this unfortunate circumstance. They seem to be good kids.


By: GUARDIAN on 7/17/13 at 8:12

I've been following this and I'm not sure all are guilty but it could turn out that none are................GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.

By: JeffF on 7/17/13 at 8:35

This is emblematic of the thug mentality which Franklin has allowed to take hold at Vanderbilt. A fine young man gets turned by the other thugs brought on campus. Like a lot of Vandy fans I think it is time that Vandy and all other schools quit giving chances to these people who have no business being on a college campus, except to work in the school cafeterias.

This was tongue in cheek on my part, but sadly not original. I have seen complaints from Vandy fans of the supposed "thug" problem at other schools and how it is wrong that "those people" even got a chance at attending college. Now that the "thug" issue is now in their hen house and knowing of the 9 arrests previously kept secret by the school and MPD it is odd seeing these same voices suddenly interested in the future lives of these young men. It is even stranger to see the real nincompoops in the fan base take the ground that only Vandy would dismiss suspected rapists from a team. Really? Vandy is the only school that would ever get rid of rapists? Really? The same school with a documented history of hiding problems with its student athletes? The same school which kept this same problem out of the press for a long time? The same school which hid a basketball players drug problems for years with a leave of absence "due to medical reasons?"

By: 4gold on 7/19/13 at 7:00

No Jeff, Vandy has a long long way to go before they sink to state school status of signing people that can't do high school work and are there solely because of athletics. These guys got their grades, never had a problem until this incident and they are off the team immediatley. VU is smart enough not to publicize until they have the investigative results. Handled the situation perfectly and don't have 2/3rds of their sports programs under investigation. So don't even try to compare your state school problems to Vandy. A Long Long stretch.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!