NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The gang-rape conviction of two former Vanderbilt University football players sends signals out in every direction.

To the two young men, Tuesday's verdicts show that being drunk out of your mind doesn't excuse criminal behavior.

Once doted on as potential Southeastern Conference football stars, Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg could be sentenced to decades behind bars. Even as first-offenders, they could spend the prime of their athletic lives in a Tennessee prison.

The two remaining defendants who allegedly joined Batey and Vandenburg in the dorm room attack, former players Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks, probably helped themselves by cooperating with authorities, but their consequences loom much larger now that their former teammates have been found guilty.

University officials, experts on sex crimes and survivors of sexual assault at Vanderbilt and all over the country hope the verdict's loudest signal goes out to women suffering in silence — telling them that justice is possible without destroying their own lives in the process.