Maurice Couch

Tennessee’s Maurice Couch ruled ineligible

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The only active player linked to the recent agent scandal in the SEC was Tennessee defensive lineman Maurice Couch, but that could be about to change. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones says Couch has been ruled ineligible as the Vols prepare for a big road test at Oregon this coming weekend. Jones announced the news on his radio show Thursday night, according to the Associated Press.

Jones said Tennessee’s compliance department is reviewing the situation. As it stands, Couch is still on the team and the school is taking precautions to ensure an informed decision is made on his future before making any irrational reactionary decisions for the program and for Couch. Whether or not Couch has played his last down for the Vols remains to be seen.

According to the information shared in a report by Yahoo Sports yesterday, Couch is allegedly accepted a total of $1,350 from Luther Davis, a former Alabama player who had reportedly been serving as a middleman between NFL agents and top players around the SEC. Couch was listed second on the Tennessee depth chart for this weekend’s game against the Oregon Ducks, so Tennessee is not losing a starting player as a result of this ruling. The Vols will take a hit in depth though, and against an offense in which having as many fresh defensive players as possible would be helpful, the timing could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the Vols.

Couch has played in each of Tennessee’s first two games. If the NCAA were to determine Couch would have been ineligible they could vacate Tennessee’s two victories to start the 2013 season, in addition to any games in 2012 that may have come while Couch may have been ineligible.

Report: Former SEC players accepted extra benefits

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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.”