Former Tennessee running back Arian Foster said he received “money on the side” during his senior year with the Vols, the third football player in the last week to be linked in published reports to alleged impermissible benefits while attending UT.
Foster, now in his fifth season with the Houston Texans, made the claims in a four-hour interview filmed in February for a documentary entitled Schooled: The Price of College Sports. Sports Illustrated, which is a partner in the documentary, printed an excerpt of Foster’s comments on its website on Friday.
“I don’t know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation — my senior year, I was getting money on the side,” Foster said in the excerpt published by Sports Illustrated. “I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, ‘Man, be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it. And you’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”
Foster elaborated on his comments during interviews Friday with media in Houston, saying he believed student-athletes should be paid and that the current system was a charade.
“I’m a firm believer that an employee should get paid for his work. And, 100 percent, I see student athletes as employees. Hiding from it is just cowardly,” Foster said in the documentary.
A San Diego native, Foster played in 47 games during his four-year career with the Vols from 2005-08. He finished with 2,964 rushing yards, second most in Tennessee history.
Despite his collegiate numbers, Foster was dogged by questions about his personality and his durability, and he went undrafted. Foster was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and has since become one of the NFL’s top running backs. In March of 2012, Foster and Texans agreed to a five-year deal worth up to $43.5 million, with $20.75 million guaranteed.
Phillip Fulmer, who was coach during Foster’s time at UT, did not respond to a request for comment. Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, in a statement to The Associated Press, said he couldn’t comment on “something that allegedly happened a long time ago.”
He said players are constantly reminded of NCAA rules.
“The values and priorities of our athletic department and football program are aligned, and the constant education of our student-athletes regarding the rules and the consequences of their choices is of the highest priority,” Hart said.
Yahoo Sports reported last week that current UT defensive tackle Mo Couch and former quarterback Tyler Bray were among five SEC players to receive cash payments from former Alabama football player Luther Davis. Davis was described as a “concierge” or intermediary between agents and financial advisers and the prospective NFL players they were trying to recruit as clients.
Couch was ruled ineligible and has not practiced with the team since the allegations were published. He apologized to fans and teammates on Twitter but has not otherwise spoken about the allegations publicly. Bray is on the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster and has not commented on the report.
UT said it is investigating the allegations involving Couch and Bray.
Foster’s frosty relationship with his former school seemed to thaw after the hiring of Butch Jones last December. Foster spoke to the football team during a visit to campus in April and posed for a photo with Jones as both grasped a brick that read “Vol by Vol.” Foster stayed in town for the spring game, and was prominently featured on the video board dancing to music in the DJ booth.
Tennessee arrived in Florida on Friday afternoon. The Vols (2-1) play Florida (1-1) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
It’s not clear what, if any, repercussions the recent allegations could have on UT institutionally. The Yahoo report did not allege that any UT coach or staff member was aware of the improper payments. Foster told Houston media that the payments he allegedly received did not come from a coach.
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.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.