Former Vanderbilt player Jaborian ”Tip” McKenzie, who is facing rape charges in Nashville, Tenn., has been kicked off Alcorn State’s football team less than a day after his presence on the team attracted attention.
Alcorn State released a statement on Thursday night from president M. Christopher Brown II saying McKenzie has been removed from the team ”until further notice.”
”Alcorn failed to sufficiently examine the allegations against McKenzie before allowing him to participate in our football program,” Brown said in the statement. ”In an effort to provide educational opportunities to a southwest Mississippi student, Alcorn State University made an error in judgment.”
Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson told The Associated Press earlier Thursday that McKenzie was playing football for the Braves because he believes the freshman is ”100 percent innocent” of the charges.
McKenzie, 19, and three other former Vanderbilt players are charged with raping an unconscious Vanderbilt student at a campus dormitory in June. The four were dismissed from the university June 29.
Hopson said he was aware that McKenzie had an Oct. 16 court date in Nashville for discussions in the case. The coach said he cleared McKenzie’s arrival with the school’s athletic director and Brown.
”If I ever find anything or if I can get any proof that he is guilty, he will be suspended from our football team,” Hopson said. ”From everything I’ve gotten, from every resource, this kid is 100 percent innocent.”
Hopson did not immediately return a message seeking comment on McKenzie’s dismissal. Alcorn State’s release did not indicate if McKenzie was still enrolled in school.
McKenzie, who is from Woodville, Miss., returned three kickoffs for 80 yards against Mississippi State last weekend in a 51-7 loss.
The story of McKenzie playing at Alcorn State was first reported by The Nashville Post.
Hopson, who declined to make McKenzie available for an interview with the AP, said the player enrolled at the school a couple of weeks ago.
”We’ll just let the process take care of itself,” Hopson said. ”And let the whole world figure out that this kid, from everything that I know, that this kid did absolutely nothing. So like I said, if somebody can tell me or show me where he did something, then I may sing a different song. But right now, from everything I know, everything that’s been shown to me through numerous phone calls and talking to many people involved in this case, I can’t find anything that says this kid is guilty.”
McKenzie was indicted Aug. 9 on five counts of aggravated rape along with Cory Batey, 19 of Nashville, Tenn.; defensive back Brandon Banks, 19, of Brandywine, Md.; and tight end Brandon Vandenburg, 20, of Indio, Calif., along with two counts of aggravated sexual battery.
According to Nashville police, the four men are charged with raping the unconscious woman inside Vandenburg’s room at Gillette House dormitory early on June 23. University officials checking the dorm’s surveillance in the hallways on an unrelated matter noticed the four’s behavior and notified the Vanderbilt University Police Department the night of June 25. Campus police contacted Nashville’s sex crimes unit June 26.
None of the four played a snap for Vanderbilt last season, with McKenzie redshirting in 2012. But the 5-foot-8 receiver had four catches for 83 yards in the Commodores’ spring game – the most yards receiving in the game.
McKenzie was released from jail Aug. 10 after posting $50,000 bond, the lowest bail set for any of the four men.