Seven months after Mississippi State was one of three SEC school publicly connected to yet another impermissible benefits imbroglio, it appears the Bulldogs are in the clear.
Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, citing a source with direct knowledge of the situation, writes that “Mississippi State will not face punishment over the alleged illicit benefits published in a Yahoo Sports report” and that “[t]he NCAA notified the Bulldogs that it considers the school’s role in the matter closed.”
In mid-September last year, Yahoo Sports reported that a total of five players from Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee had received impermissible benefits from former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis, who reportedly served as a middleman between NFL agents, financial advisers and college football players.
A pair of former MSU players, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and receiver Chad Bumphis, were named in the report as having received impermissible benefits from Davis in the form of airfare while they were in college. An internal investigation by the university found no wrongdoing, a finding with which the NCAA concurred.
The only current player — at the time — named by Yahoo in its report was UT defensive lineman Maurice Couch, who was ruled permanently ineligible by the Vols in early November.
The other players named in the report were Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker and Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray; there’s no word on the status of the NCAA’s probe into those two programs, with Fowler writing that “the NCAA can’t find Luther Davis, which has stalled the case.”
At least for the time being, a scandal involving NFL agents and a handful of former/current SEC players has cost one of the latter the remainder of his collegiate playing career.
Tennessee announced Friday afternoon that defensive lineman Maurice Couch (pictured, left) has been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA. It was alleged in a mid-September Yahoo! report that Couch had received impermissible benefits from former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis , who reportedly served as a middleman between NFL agents, financial advisers and college football players.
The Vols stated that they intend to appeal the NCAA’s decision.
“At the end of the day, what’s most important is I have my family, my degree, and love n support from the Volnation!” Couch wrote on Twitter shortly after UT’s announcement. “And thanks to UT, coaches, teammates, Volnation, and everyone else involved sincerely appreciate everything you done for me.”
Couch was ruled ineligible by UT one day after that report surfaced and has kept the redshirt senior sidelined for the past six games. Couch will remain sidelined while the university goes through the appeals process.
The lineman was the only current player mentioned by name in the report. The other players mentioned were from the SEC but are no longer playing at the collegiate level: Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and receiver Chad Bumphis.
There has been no word yet on whether Alabama, Mississippi State or Tennessee will face sanctions from the NCAA over the allegations. Each of the schools with players connected to the impermissible benefits scandal are in the midst of conducting internal investigations.
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.”