Sports Illustrated has potentially blown the lid off of illegal recruiting and benefit practices at Oklahoma State, and now Yahoo! Sports may have done the same within the SEC. Rand Getlin and Charles Robinson have discovered text messages and documents revealing impermissible benefits provided to four former and one current member of the nation’s most dominant football conference.
The five total players were Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and (current player) Maurice Couch and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis. Basically, Yahoo! was able to tie all five to former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis.
Davis acted as a “liaison” between the players while they were at school and to agents hoping to represent them at the next level. In total, Yahoo! discovered three NFL agents (Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips) and three financial advisors (Jason Jernigan, Mike Rowan and Hodge Brahmbhatt) tied to Davis on paper. The transactions between these six men and Davis totaled $45,550.
When approached by Yahoo!, Simms, Schaffer, Phillips and Rowan all confirmed paying Davis. However, each said that Davis was not expressly instructed to ever use the money to pay a player specifically.
Davis played for the Tide between 2007 and 2010, making him the perfect point man to develop trust with a current crop of SEC stars. Yahoo! found texts and screenshots showing Davis put $5,000 into a Wells Fargo account for Fluker, a former All-American and first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers.
In June and July of 2012, Davis sent a total of $1,400 to Bray, Couch and a friend via Western Union. More money was sent to Couch in November.
Davis bought plane tickets priced at $1,259.20 for Cox and Bumphis.
These findings, should they prove accurate upon an NCAA or SEC inquiry, could translate to huge issues for the schools involved.
Fluker, Bray and Cox are all currently in the NFL, but their respective programs could all still face punishment. Cox’s Bulldogs are already on probation until 2015. Bray’s Volunteers, should wins be vacated, won’t be missing much after three years under the ineffective Derek Dooley.
That leaves Fluker and the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. In April, Fluker tweeted that he took money from agents, but later recanted by claiming his account got hacked. If what Yahoo! has found is correct, and Fluker had taken cash, the NCAA would be perfectly within its rights to vacate games he participated in.
We’re not saying it is going to happen. In fact, we are light years from even thinking that far ahead. However, vacating wins is a possibility, and Fluker participated in multiple SEC and national title game wins.