Report: Five SEC players received benefits
Five Southeastern Conference football players, including former Alabama All-American tackle D.J. Fluker, might have received impermissible benefits prior to completing their collegiate careers.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Five Southeastern Conference football players, including former Alabama All-American tackle D.J. Fluker, allegedly received impermissible benefits prior to completing their collegiate careers.
According to a Yahoo! Sports report, former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis acted as an intermediary between the players and multiple NFL agents and financial advisers. The report says Davis funneled money and benefits totaling $45,500 to Fluker, Tennessee starting defensive end Maurice Couch, former Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray, and former Mississippi State players Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis.
The allegations would violate NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199, which prohibits athletes from receiving extra benefits from prospective agents or marketing representatives. The violation could impact Fluker's eligibility and potentially the Alabama wins he participated in, including the 2012 Discover BCS National Championship.
Alabama has been made aware of the report, athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement Wednesday.
"Our compliance department was looking into this situation prior to being notified that this story was actually going to be published," Battle said in the release. "Our review is ongoing. We diligently educate our student-athletes on maintaining compliance with NCAA rules, and will continue to do so."
Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday he supports the school's compliance department and then refused to answer further questions on the matter.
"From an administrative standpoint, from a compliance standpoint, I think our people here do a fantastic job," Saban said. "I know that we have, I think, one of the best agent education programs in terms of what we try to do to help our players make good choices and decisions by what they do and what they don't do when it comes to agents.
"I have full confidence in our leadership that we're going to do whatever we need to do to handle the situation appropriately, and I know that we will."
When asked another question on the matter, a frustrated Saban said that he wouldn't talk about it anymore but would answer questions about the upcoming Texas A&M game.
When no questions were asked he walked off, saying "Appreciate your interest in the game."
The Yahoo! Sports report shows benefits coming from multiple sources based on financial records and text messages belonging to Davis, who is said to have worked as a runner for the agents involved. Yahoo! Sports authenticated transactions between Fluker and Davis, including money transfers, hotel stays, flights, furniture and other expenses.
The report named three NFL agents and three financial advisers who Yahoo! Sports said engaged in transactions totaling at least $45,550 with Davis between September 2011 and December 2012.
Yahoo! said records show Davis distributing at least $12,700 in cash, airfare and other expenses to the five players. The report included a 49-item invoice totaling $33,755 from February 2013 that Davis emailed to Fluker's onetime financial adviser, Hodge Brahmbhatt.
Agents Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips and financial adviser Mike Rowan each confirmed giving money to Davis, according to Yahoo!, but said they didn't instruct the former player to provide benefits to players, and didn't know of him doing so.
Yahoo! Sports said financial advisers Jason Jernigan and Brahmbhatt declined comment.
Phillips told AL.com that he hasn't read the report, but says he knows it's "filled with falsehoods."
Documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports also show current Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson, whose name appears as "E. Stinson," on a flight itinerary from Nashville, Tenn., though agent Isaac Conner said Stinson did not make the flight. Stinson, a starter on the defense, practiced Wednesday.
A second Yahoo! Sports report alleges that former Alabama safety Mark Barron accepted money while he was recovering from a shoulder injury as a junior in 2011 that kept him from declaring for the NFL draft. Text messages obtained by the website show that Barron was asked to repay money after signing with a competing sports agency.
Mississippi State spokesman Gregg Ellis said the university "constantly educates our student-athletes about agent-related issues. We've also worked closely with the Mississippi Secretary of State's office in recent years to strengthen the Mississippi Uniform Agent Act. As always, we will do our due diligence to evaluate any potential concerns."
Tennessee athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton also said the university emphasizes rules compliance.
"The education of our student-athletes regarding NCAA rules and extra benefits is and will continue to be the central focus of our compliance efforts," Stanton said. "We are aware of the article and are examining all of the relevant facts, and we will not comment further."
Mississippi State and Tennessee are both on probation for other NCAA violations until the summer of 2015.
Information from TideNation's Alex Scarborough and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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