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A former athlete who acted as an intermediary for NFL agents allegedly funneled cash to University of Tennessee defensive tackle Mo Couch and former Vols quarterback Tyler Bray, according to a report by Yahoo Sports published online Wednesday.
Yahoo said it authenticated six cash transfers in which former University of Alabama player Luther Davis sent money via Western Union to Couch or Bray. The transactions occurred primarily during the summer of 2012, although one payment occurred during the 2012 season.
A UT official said the university was looking into the allegations.
“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,” Jimmy Stanton, senior associate athletic director, said in a statement. “We are aware of the article and are examining all of the relevant facts, and we will not comment further.”
On the “Vol Calls” radio program Wednesday evening, head coach Butch Jones said he was proud of his staff’s commitment to NCAA compliance and educating players about agents.
“The only thing I can comment on is what we’ve done since we’ve been here,” said Jones, who was hired last December. “Everybody has a track record, and I think our track record (on NCAA compliance) speaks for itself.”
The Yahoo report alleges that three other former Southeastern Conference players received cash from Davis — Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker; Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox, a defensive tackle; and wideout Chad Bumphis, also of Mississippi State.
The report described Davis as a “concierge” who helped agents and financial advisers meet potential NFL draft picks.
Yahoo said it identified agents Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer, and John Phillips, and financial advisers Jason Jernigan, Mike Rowan, and Hodge Brahmbhatt, as those who provided $45,500 to Davis. Yahoo said Simms, Schaffer, Phillips and Rowan confirmed giving money to Davis, but said they did not instruct him to provide it to players.
Bray’s agent declined to comment to Yahoo on the report.
Jones said Couch would not play in Saturday’s game at the University of Oregon after missing Wednesday’s practice due to heat-related symptoms. A reporter who saw Couch leave the field on Tuesday said the 304-pound lineman did, in fact, appear to be stricken by the heat.
Couch, married with a child, is from Orlando, Fla., and arrived at UT in 2011 after a stint at Garden City (Kan.) Community College. He didn’t participate in spring practice because of an injury and was beaten out for the starting job by senior Daniel Hood in camp.
Bray, a native of Kingsburg, Calif., passed for 7,444 yards in his UT career but went unselected in the NFL draft in April. He signed a free-agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs and made the roster.
What happens next for Tennessee is unclear. The NCAA and UT could declare Bray and Couch retroactively ineligible if it is determined that they knowingly took impermissible payments. In some instances, teams have been forced to vacate any wins in which an ineligible player participates. The Vols went 5-7 last year. Couch has played in the first two games of the 2013 season.
In other instances, when there are mitigating factors, the NCAA has allowed a player to be declared ineligible and then almost immediately reinstated. That was the case in 2010 when the NCAA determined that neither Cam Newton nor Auburn were aware that Newton’s father had solicited teams for payments.
UT is on NCAA probation through Aug. 23, 2015. The probation was extended by two years last November after the NCAA ruled that former assistant Willie Mack Garza provided impermissible travel and lodging to a former prospect.