As if we were not already occupied by the Oklahoma State story being revealed piece-by-piece by Sports Illustrated, we have yet another report out claiming a handful of players from the SEC had broken NCAA rules by accepting impermissible benefits before playing their final college football game. According to a report published by Yahoo Sports Wednesday, the former SEC players include Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and receiver Chad Bumphis all reportedly accepted extra benefits that would have violated NCAA rules. Also on the report is current Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch.
The report suggests former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis served as a middleman between NFL agents, financial advisers and top college football talent. The evidence to support the report’s claims come from a collection of text messages and financial records including money transfers and bank statements and more. The report says three agents and a financial adviser admitted to Yahoo they had engaged in providing benefits to Davis, who played for Alabama between 2007 and 2010, although Yahoo was unable to receive a comment from the former Alabama player.
There is no evidence at this time that any coaches at Alabama, Tennessee or Mississippi State were aware of the alleged violations in the report. The NCAA will surely take a note of this report and could take a closer look in to any potential violations. If confirmed, Alabama’s 2011 and 2012 season national championships could be vacated in similar fashion to USC’s vacated BCS title during the Reggie Bush investigation, as Fluker was an active player during both seasons for the Tide. As Yahoo Sports notes, Tennessee and Mississippi State are programs on probation and could be at risk of harsher penalties if the NCAA could manage to confirm any of the information through their own investigation. Given the paper trail the Yahoo report was able to dig up, that could be a realistic result if the NCAA takes a closer look.
The report is very detailed and presents solid evidence to support the claims. Coupled with the ongoing story regarding Oklahoma State, and this is quite a week for off-field news. None of the stories comes as much of a shock given the state of the game today, but it is just another headache for the NCAA and various schools to have to work through.
UPDATE (6:50 PM ET): Alabama Athletics director Bill Battle has released a statement saying the school had been made aware of the details of the report and that Alabama was underway with their own internal investigation. Here is the full statement from Battle:
“We have been aware of some of the allegations in today’s story and our compliance department was looking into this situation prior to being notified that this story was actually going to be published. Our review is ongoing. We diligently educate our student-athletes on maintaining compliance with NCAA rules, and will continue to do so.”
After having a bit of a cloud of uncertainty floating above them the past few days, Georgia linebackers Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith will not face any discipline from the university and football program. Georgia announced that decision on Monday, saying the legal manner has been resolved from an on-campus dorm search by campus police.
“After receiving an incident report last week, we determined that neither Roquan Smith nor Natrez Patrick had violated any Athletic Association rules that would require suspension,”Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said in a released statement. “This included drug testing, which was negative for both student-athletes.”
Campus police were called to Patrick’s dorm room on October 15 to investigate a potential marijuana smell. No substances were discovered and no arrests were made.
Not losing Patrick and Smith is good news for the Bulldogs, as the two are the leading tacklers on Georgia’s defense, with 42 and 39 tackles, respectively. Each player released a brief statement in addition to McGarity’s statement.
“Since November 2015, I have dedicated myself to moving forward,” Patrick said in a released statement. “I’m blessed to have done that despite hurdles I’ve had to clear. This incident was simply another hurdle and I was confident I would successfully clear it. I’ll continue to move forward and I’m anxious to play on Saturday.”
“As a student at the University of Georgia and a member of the football team, I take this opportunity very seriously,” Smith said in his statement. “I have followed the rules of the Athletic Association and I am happy this situation has been rightfully resolved. I look forward to representing my school and my team on Saturday in Jacksonville.”
Northwestern cornerback Matt Harris is retiring from football after a series of concussions have put his health at risk.
“This is an incredibly difficult decision to reach, but it is the right one for me and for my future,” Harris said in a released statement. “There are few things I love more than playing the game of football and the game has provided me with so many opportunities, including the chance to attend this University. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and learn so many lessons. Northwestern has given me so much, I look forward to taking full advantage of my chance to give back to the world around me in the future.”
Harris, a team captain in 2016, earned All-Big Ten honors in 2015 and has been named a two-time Academic All-Big Ten player during his time at Northwestern. Harris will retire having notched 161 tackles, six interceptions and three forced fumbles on the football field.
Harris is another name added to the growing list of football players making the decision to retire at such a young age. As time goes by, we learn more and more about the possible long-term effects of head injuries seen in sports, particularly in football. As a result, we are seeing players more frequently decide to step away from the sport in order to preserve their long-term health in the years to come. It is an unfortunate reality of the sport of football today, and one that continues to be addressed at all levels.
One of Wisconsin’s top defensive players will miss the remainder of the season. Linebacker Jack Cichy, despite saying after Saturday’s win against Iowa he was determined to play this weekend against Nebraska, will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral.
Cichy led the Badgers in tackles this season with 60, 45 of which have been solo tackles. What makes the injury extra frustrating for the Badgers is the team just welcomed back Vince Biegel from an injury. Biegel and Cichy made for a very talented linebacking duo in Madison, but that will be lost for the rest of Wisconsin’s Big Ten West Division championship hunt. The Badgers lost another linebacker for the season in the first game of the season when Chris Orr went down.
So long for having a veteran option to rely on at South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ are moving forward giving a pair of freshmen the chance to lead the offense for the remainder of the season. Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain will continue to take first-team reps with the offense
“I just feel like right now, just from an ability standpoint, those two guys give us the best opportunity,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said during his Sunday teleconference, according to The Post and Courier. “And they’re just going to keep getting better. Both of them do things equally well, and we’ll continue to rep that way.”
Bentley made his season debut over the weekend, completing 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns against UMass. McIlwain has appeared in six games this season, completing 56-of-106 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. At 3-4, the Gamecocks can still make a run to a postseason bowl berth, but having a quarterback capable of lighting a spark on offense is essential. Bentley did that against UMAss, but games against Tennessee, Florida and Clemson in the second half of the season will prove to be more difficult.
Regardless, this means we may have seen the last of Perry Orth at quarterback for the Gamecocks. Orth will step aside as South Carolina’s leading passer with 661 passing yards and a completion percentage of 63.3 without a touchdown and two interceptions. The senior, a former walk-on, will remain influential on the sideline, however.
“Perry’s been great in terms of supporting our guys and talking to them on the sideline,” Muschamp said. “He’s been a great teammate, he’s a great young man, and he’s a guy who certainly is a valuable member of our organization, and a guy I’ve got the utmost respect for.”