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Report: 5 SEC Players Received Impermissible Benefits

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USA TODAY
September 12, 2013 Thursday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 7C
666 words
Report implicates 5 SEC players;
Impermissible benefits at issue, Yahoo Sports says
Dan Wolken and Daniel Uthman, @DanWolken and @DanUthman, USA TODAY Sports

A Yahoo Sports report alleges former Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis served as an intermediary for agents and financial advisers to compensate five Southeastern Conference football players while they were college athletes. Among those players identified is D.J. Fluker, an offensive lineman who was a key player on Alabama's 2012 national championship team and now is a rookie with the San Diego Chargers.

The alleged transactions would violate NCAA Bylaw 12.3.1.2, which prohibits college athletes from receiving benefits from agents or marketing representatives. They also could have an effect on Alabama's most recent national title. Southern California vacated two Bowl Championship Series title-game appearances, including one championship, after penalties related to extra benefits provided to former tailback Reggie Bush during his college career.

Alabama athletics director Bill Battle said Wednesday in a statement: "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."

Two other NFL players -- former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and former Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox -- also were reported as accepting benefits. Former Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis, recently released by the Miami Dolphins, and current Tennessee senior defensive end Maurice Couch also were named.

Wednesday night, Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Couch would not play Saturday at Oregon, citing heat exhaustion.

Three agents -- Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips -- and three financial advisers -- Jason Jernigan, Mike Rowan and Hodge Brahmbhatt, engaged Davis in transactions totaling $45,550, according to the report. Simms, Schaffer, Phillips and Rowan confirmed payments to Davis but said they did not know he was passing funds to college players.

The report also includes an itinerary for a July 2012 outing involving Fluker, Nashville-based agent Isaac Conner and Nashville attorneys Ronald Stewart and Andre Johnson that includes the mention of "E. Stinson," current Alabama senior defensive end Ed Stinson, on a list of clients for a courtesy car. Conner told Yahoo Sports that Stinson was not present and his agency had not paid Davis or any other players.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Wednesday evening in his regularly scheduled news conference, "I didn't read the article. I just came from practice. I know Bill has already made a comment about the story. I say from an administrative standpoint and a compliance standpoint, our people here do a fantastic job. I know we have one of the best agent education programs in terms of what we try to do to help our players make good choices and decisions about what they do and what they don't do when it comes to agents. I have full confidence in our leadership. We're going to do whatever we need to do to handle the situation appropriately, and I know that we will. I don't know anything about any current players that would have any circumstances relative to this. So there's no sense in asking about that."

When Saban was asked how long Alabama has been aware of and looking into the allegations regarding Fluker, he said, "You want to know that, ask (Battle), alright? We've done a lot of investigations about a lot of things. Whenever somebody brings something up, we investigate it. There's nobody in this organization that wants to do anything not aboveboard, and we don't want our players to do it either. That's not what our program is built on. I made a statement. Don't ask me any more questions about this.

"This hasn't been a distraction for me. We have good people to manage this, and if people didn't do the right things, we'll take the appropriate action to take care of it."

Contributing: Scott Gleeson

September 12, 2013

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