Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch is included in a Yahoo Sports report. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
A Yahoo Sports investigation has found five Southeastern Conference football stars violated NCAA rules by receiving extra benefits prior to completing their collegiate careers. The five stars tied to receiving illegal benefits were Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis.
Fluker, Bray and Cox are playing in the NFL. Bumphis was released by the Dolphins. Couch is a senior starter at Tennessee.
The link between three NFL agents and a financial adviser and the five players reportedly was former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis. Yahoo Sports reports a source with ties to NFL agents alleged that Davis was working as an intermediary between several high-profile college football stars and multiple NFL agents and financial advisers.
The three NFL agents and financial adviser told Yahoo Sports they provided money to Davis while Davis was providing benefits to the five SEC players.
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Yahoo Sports reports text messages document the ties between Davis and the agents, including Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips, and financial adviser Mike Rowan.
Simms, Phillips and Rowan confirmed Davis was a point of contact in their efforts to recruit at least one college player – and in some cases several players – who were expected to be selected in the NFL draft. However, Simms, Schaffer and Rowan said that while they provided money to Davis, they did were not aware of his financial dealings, nor did they not instruct him to provide impermissible benefits to players.
A sixth player –Crimson Tide safety Mark Barron – was also discussed in text message records obtained by Yahoo Sports, including an exchange following the 2011 season where Davis and Simms talk of attempting to recoup $8,000 from the player. At the time of the texts, Barron was a junior and preparing to leave Alabama as an early entry into the NFL draft. Text messages also reference Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman and Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.
Yahoo Sports reports Simms, Schaffer, Phillips and Rowan were identified in financial and text message records turned over by a source alleging Davis was an intermediary between agents, advisers and SEC football players. Schaffer was identified in bank records linked to Davis. Financial advisers were also identified in monetary transactions with Davis.
All told, Yahoo Sports found that three agents (Simms, Schaffer and Phillips) and three financial advisers (Rowan, Jernigan and Hodge Brahmbhatt) moved at least $45,550 to Davis between September 2011 and December 2012. During this period, records authenticated by Yahoo Sports also showed Davis doled out at least $12,700 in benefits to the five players. Text messages and email exchanges turned over to Yahoo Sports also discuss more than $40,000 in additional benefits allegedly tied to some of the players and their family members.
Simms, Schaffer, Phillips and Rowan each independently said Davis had expressed a desire to be a manager or "concierge" for NFL players, and had offered to put them in touch with potential NFL draft picks.