Former Vol Maurice Couch admits to accepting money due to financial hardship: ‘I was going to lose my family’

Maurice Couch

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Maurice Couch

Former Tennessee defensive tackle Maurice Couch said he accepted impermissible cash benefits during his playing career because he was financially struggling and wanted to keep his young family together.

In an interview Monday morning with Tennessee Sports Radio, Couch spoke publicly for the first time about the allegations that caused him to be ruled ineligible for the final 11 games of the 2013 season, effectively ending his career.

“I wasn’t a normal student-athlete,” Couch said. “When you have a young one, there’s more you have to bring to the table. I was at a point where I was going to lose my family. I wasn’t going to be able to focus without knowing my family was taken care of.”

Couch, who is married with a young daughter, was first held out of action before Tennessee’s game at Oregon on Sept. 14 after Yahoo Sports reported that he was among several SEC players who accepted impermissible payments from a man acting as a liaison to NFL agents.

Couch was eventually ruled permanently ineligible. Former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was also among the players implicated. He has not commented publicly on the report.

Couch had previously apologized on Twitter, but his comments with Dave Hooker on Monday were his most extensive to date.

“It was tough watching (this season) because I never thought I would be home watching my boys playing without me,” Couch said. “My wife helped me. The fact that I’m graduating kept me positive.”

Couch said the weeks of uncertainty were hard to manage.

“I was sick, all the waiting,” Couch said. “I felt like the NCAA was hiding, like they didn’t want to talk me. It was, ‘Well, we’ll get back to you.’...I just went on about my business, focused on school and kept working out to stay in shape.”

Couch said he and his wife Stephanie have no family support in Knoxville, and that when their financial situation looked bleak, she considered moving back to Kansas to stay with her family.

"I used all the resources I could to take care of my family," Couch said. "We've got two cars, diapers and wipes, baby food. You can't live off a monthly check. You've got to have some additional income."

Couch said it's impossible for the NCAA to stamp out illegal payments to players, and he thinks the stipend to athletes should be "triple or quadrupled."

"(On a football team), you have a lot of guys from all different backgrounds," Couch said. "Some grew up not having things. 'You’re a great athlete, so I'm going to give you $10,000.' From having nothing and seeing all that money? It happens all the time. It’s never going to stop. It’s just a part of it."

Asked by Hooker if he regretted leaving a "paper trail" in the form of Western Union receipts, Couch replied, "To be honest, I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong."

"The NCAA is getting billions from us, beating each other up and playing, and we get a few hundred bucks a month. That’s not fair."

What about a college scholarship?

"You get an education, but nothing’s free," Couch said. "You pay for it down the road with your body and your health."

Couch said he has been invited to the Senior Bowl and that Tennessee coach Butch Jones has said he will be welcome at Tennessee’s pro day.

“Probably not too many coaches would have done that,” Couch said.

Couch said he believes he can play in the NFL.

"This is probably as fresh as I've felt since I signed the Letter of Intent," he said.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 29

no1djkb#278630 writes:

I understand how it is when your back is against the wall. You made a mistake but you should not be punished for it for the rest of your life. Mad props to Coach Jones allowing him to come to pro day. What a class guy. Man I have been in a situation where I did not know if I was going to have enough for formula for my son so I totally understand. God be with you and your family man and remember to work hard and try to live right. Good things will happen if you try hard. I am a witness to that

GerryOP writes:

God bless you Maurice. You had to make a decision and you made the right choice. You knew that your family and your education were more important than a football game. I wish you well in whatever you do and make the best of the opportunity Coach Jones has given you.

Go forth and do well.

atnvol#283282 writes:

Only a fool would admonish Mo for looking out for his best interests. I hope Mo will consider himself a Vol for Life.

RoadTrip writes:

Missed you playing this season, Mo. You will always be a VFL. Good luck in the pros. An attaboy to Butch for keeping the door open.

TommyJack writes:

The corrupt NC2A needs to go.

robert#1417579 writes:

I hope Couch does well in whatever he ends up doing in life, but the scholarship is for the player, not an entire family. No one can expect the NCAA to increase stipends or scholarships to take care of a wife and kids too. Couch made the mistake, not the NCAA, not Tennessee, not the SEC. I hope Couch succeeds in life, but he got what he deserved.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to robert#1417579:

I hope Couch does well in whatever he ends up doing in life, but the scholarship is for the player, not an entire family. No one can expect the NCAA to increase stipends or scholarships to take care of a wife and kids too. Couch made the mistake, not the NCAA, not Tennessee, not the SEC. I hope Couch succeeds in life, but he got what he deserved.

You evidentially have never had to make a tough decision. How many times do we hear "one of these days I'm going to marry my girlfriend and take care of my kid." I don't know the circumstancews behind Mo's marriage and the birth of his child. Could be something happened to make him feel as though he had to get married between recruiting and playing college ball. It happens. Mo is a real man (IMHO) for stepping up to the plate and caring for his famiily. You are quick to judge and short on thought make such a remark. Thanks, Mo, for whatyou brought to TENNESSEE and good luck in whatever your future holds. You'll always be a VFL.

OrangeVol4Life writes:

Couch commented that he, "felt like he was doing nothing wrong". Really? He knew that he broke the rules regardless of what he thought. You cannot use that same logic in life for other situations or I can guarantee failure or jail time! I do sympathize with someone struggling to take care of basic needs but most of us have been there too. You can never make things right by doing wrong. Do wish him the best and I have no stones to throw at him for we've all made poor decisions. Time to move on.

no1djkb#278630 writes:

It was wrong in the NCAA's eyes but not legally wrong. He did not steal the money, he was given money. Yes it was a mistake but not a criminal mistake. Seems to me you are making it out to be that. Hey we have been there and I agree with you on that, but the difference between me and him is that I was able to work my way out of the situation. From what I have heard, these guys are not allowed to get a job during the season.
He did make a mistake, but a man wanting to keep his family together is a good thing in my opinion. You have young guys spitting out children like nobody's business and not wanting to take responsibility. I honestly think guys like him should get extra help. Wouldn't you want a guy like Couch to represent your university? A guy who is family first?
I definitely don't want a guy like Travis Henry. Remember him and his 10 children by eight different women

Posey writes:

I didn't realize college players received a monthly stipend. So, they are all hired players?

tndrum#214683 writes:

I feel for a young man trying to play big time college football, go to class (or at least the Thorton Center), and raise a family all at the same time. It would be tough on anyone. But regardless of whether any of us agree with the rules, the rules are what they are. And if the punishment was only on the player accepting illegal benefits, I might understand. But I haven't heard him address the potential effect his actions may have on the players and coaches he's leaving behind, a program already on probation. I feel for you Mo, I just hope you and Bray didn't just bring heavy penalties to the program at a time when it can least afford it.

manoffewwords writes:

in response to no1djkb#278630:

It was wrong in the NCAA's eyes but not legally wrong. He did not steal the money, he was given money. Yes it was a mistake but not a criminal mistake. Seems to me you are making it out to be that. Hey we have been there and I agree with you on that, but the difference between me and him is that I was able to work my way out of the situation. From what I have heard, these guys are not allowed to get a job during the season.
He did make a mistake, but a man wanting to keep his family together is a good thing in my opinion. You have young guys spitting out children like nobody's business and not wanting to take responsibility. I honestly think guys like him should get extra help. Wouldn't you want a guy like Couch to represent your university? A guy who is family first?
I definitely don't want a guy like Travis Henry. Remember him and his 10 children by eight different women

no1 I agree 100%. NCAA No Mo Couch Yes

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

I agree with most of the comments but the most important question is still out there. What happens to the scum bag who gave him the money in a way that would leave a paper trail. If I had that kind of money and truly wanted to help a person in Mo's situation I would give him cash.

TNlogfire writes:

I guess Sports Talk couldn't be bothered with this interview. This is a MAJOR catch. Way to go TSR...!!!

Vol1968 writes:

And in return you get a stage to display your talents, an education, and health care. You could take out student loans. You could wait tables. Right is right and wrong is wrong. College ball is the chance to get good enough for the pros. Not the pros. I do wish you well. I do hope you make it to the pros. As a single parent I was more concerned with my child having strong morals and principles. Honesty, integrity, accountability. Not whining because it is not fair. Life is not fair.

tnoldiebutgoodie writes:

Student athletes are at the very FIRST team meeting that as a college athlete, YOU CANNOT ACCEPT PAYMENTS CONSIDERED ILLEGAL. I know. I have attended many of those meetings. Was the coach speaking Chinese at the meeting Couch were at? What part of NO did Couch not understand? How many times do the coaches have to say "na-na.. don't do that."

Rules are rules. You may not like them, but if everybody else has to live by them, Couch should, too, family not withstanding.

If his family was more important, then he should have quit football to pay more attention to being a father. That is, after all, MORE IMPORTANT THAN PLAYING FOOTBALL.

Again, rules are rules that everybody has to follow. There's no way to make a big wrong, a right.

And don't knock the stipend. It is what it is. Again, give up football and find a job.

The next problem is that knucklehead Tyler Bray, who's probably stupid enough to take the money WHILE he was still playing football. Wonder how many games we'll have to forfeit. After his conduct, I've always said that if that idiot sits down, he'll crush his brain.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Give the man credit, he told the truth after cheating. Where is scum bag Bray, the football rammer jammer criminals, Georgia Dawg recipients and Big Blue BB players?
The game is corrupt, it has been for 40 years!
The NCAA and SEC management are complicent in the annual crimes. Come on Man!

eepwlg writes:

He was man enough to admit it, and man enough to put his family ahead of football. How many of you would have done the same thing? Yes, taking the money caused him to lose his football career at UT, but he will graduate and may have a shot at the NFL. Or would you prefer for him to be like too many others with children by many different women?

cltvol writes:

in response to TommyJack:

The corrupt NC2A needs to go.

it will, sooner or later, an inept org. inepts itself out of business. Just like the college text book racket/shake down, and this stupidly conceived and worsely implemented health care cluster fxxx that's imploding.

toolie75 writes:

This is a complex situation. He had to take care of his family but broke the rules. Don't like the rule but it is the rule. Ultimately, to me the family is more important.

I am not familiar with Mo's situation. So, I will make a generalization that might not apply. Don't get married and have a child if you can't support them. Don't get into a no-win situation: break the rule or hurt your family.

no1djkb#278630 writes:

in response to manoffewwords:

no1 I agree 100%. NCAA No Mo Couch Yes

For sure. The NCAA bites. You guys keep talking about rules I have an example for you. I was 23 years old in college driving drunk. I pulled over to sober up and a cop pulled up behind me. I failed my test and was taken down town because I did not realize you could still get arrested for DUI if you had your keys where you could get to them. I did not resist, I was polite and respectful. The cop appreciated the way I was and when my court day came up, he asked the D.A. to reduce my charge to reckless driving. $500.00 fine and that was it. My point is that people can make mistakes and be given a second chance if they are humble. By no means what Couch did compares to what I did. I committed a crime, he broke a rule. This guy had family and was desperate. The NCAA can look at the cases on a individual basis. I am sure that cop did not let everyone off that he arrested. I get tired of the NCAA hurting good young people who make mistakes. Couch deserved a second chance. Punishing him like guys like Prior (think that is how you spell his name) is crazy in my opinion. He did not for family, not for self

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

in response to toolie75:

This is a complex situation. He had to take care of his family but broke the rules. Don't like the rule but it is the rule. Ultimately, to me the family is more important.

I am not familiar with Mo's situation. So, I will make a generalization that might not apply. Don't get married and have a child if you can't support them. Don't get into a no-win situation: break the rule or hurt your family.

You should have stopped while you sounded intelligent.
Don't generalize unless you are perfect. Your life must be paved by your parents and you haven't had any choices or challenges!
Ignorance has no excuse!

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

in response to cltvol:

it will, sooner or later, an inept org. inepts itself out of business. Just like the college text book racket/shake down, and this stupidly conceived and worsely implemented health care cluster fxxx that's imploding.

What does your ignorant political view of the world have to do with this article. Hypocrite? Get off the couch, turn off FOX and Rush, learn about what is true in daily life instead of being a serf of morons.

Plasticman85 writes:

in response to toolie75:

This is a complex situation. He had to take care of his family but broke the rules. Don't like the rule but it is the rule. Ultimately, to me the family is more important.

I am not familiar with Mo's situation. So, I will make a generalization that might not apply. Don't get married and have a child if you can't support them. Don't get into a no-win situation: break the rule or hurt your family.

Exactly! Stop trying to be a "victim" when you made the choice to have a kid before you could support it. I hope Mo Couch is successful in whatever he decides to do, however, he needs to learn that throughout life we all make choices and have to live with those choices we make. Choosing to have a baby to support as a 19 or 20 year old is typically not a wise decision and Mo Couch made that decision. Now he has to live with the consequences.

bfaj34#1436246 writes:

in response to Vol1968:

And in return you get a stage to display your talents, an education, and health care. You could take out student loans. You could wait tables. Right is right and wrong is wrong. College ball is the chance to get good enough for the pros. Not the pros. I do wish you well. I do hope you make it to the pros. As a single parent I was more concerned with my child having strong morals and principles. Honesty, integrity, accountability. Not whining because it is not fair. Life is not fair.

I agree with you completely. Three things: 1) he didn't have to have 2 cars when many students don't even have one 2) his actions were pure selfishness and if he were a former teammate of mine I would have nothing to do with his sorry butt 3) he is making excuses because he thought he would get away with cheating and got caught; his situation was the same situation he was in before he went out and accepted that cash in the prior 2 years he played.

So all the people taking his side are only doing what creates these prima donnas in the first place, making them seem like they are above the rules and the law. I don't empathize with Maurice Couch at all. Honestly his position makes me even more pissed when he could have made such a difference for this team's inept defensive line. You're a buster Maurice Couch. PERIOD!

GerryOP writes:

in response to bfaj34#1436246:

I agree with you completely. Three things: 1) he didn't have to have 2 cars when many students don't even have one 2) his actions were pure selfishness and if he were a former teammate of mine I would have nothing to do with his sorry butt 3) he is making excuses because he thought he would get away with cheating and got caught; his situation was the same situation he was in before he went out and accepted that cash in the prior 2 years he played.

So all the people taking his side are only doing what creates these prima donnas in the first place, making them seem like they are above the rules and the law. I don't empathize with Maurice Couch at all. Honestly his position makes me even more pissed when he could have made such a difference for this team's inept defensive line. You're a buster Maurice Couch. PERIOD!

Oh stop it. Everyone knows that Mo broke the rules. Why Mo did not know that is an interesting question. It appears that this kind of stuff goes on a lot and Mo got caught. Likewise, eveyone including Mo knows how babies are made and everyone, except for you obviously, has made life-threatening mistakes and had to pay-the-piper. So stop the self-righteous proselytizing and castigation and move on.

Life is not a computer game that when you get into trouble you can simply press RESET and start the last phase of the life-game over again. I still believe that when Mo reached the final choice in his situation, he did the right thing and arranged to take care of his family. God bless MO.

KENVOL writes:

I just wonder where he is working now to pay for his family? He has had all season to get a job. I will bet he hasn't gotten one yet. So what has changed?

underthehill writes:

I do not know of one state or national politician who has not done worse..

cltvol writes:

in response to WaitUntilNextYear:

What does your ignorant political view of the world have to do with this article. Hypocrite? Get off the couch, turn off FOX and Rush, learn about what is true in daily life instead of being a serf of morons.

The Ncaa is inept, as are bureaucrats. Not a political view, just stating facts. Hypocrite about what? What couch are you talking about? What are you talking about daily life? Do a little math. Observe and conclude objectively. Fox is a chick and Rush is a band. What do they have to do with it? Don't know why you turn into personal attack, but that is typical of someone with no position to defend. Oldest trick in the world.So get back on your Lucky Charms box little fella.

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