Vols ponder probation problems if pro agent paid players

The University of Tennessee says it is looking into accusations that a couple of Vol football players received cash from a professional agent. The key question on the minds of fans is how this could impact a football program already on probation.

Wednesday an article by Yahoo! Sports claimed five SEC football players received money from a professional agent. The players include former University of Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and current defensive lineman Mo Couch.

The payments reportedly occurred mostly during the summer of 2012. If proven true, the summer of 2012 will become even more infamous for Bray. His time at UT that summer also included allegations that he threw bottles at cars at an apartment complex as well as a citation for reckless boating while riding a jet-ski on Tellico Lake.

"With these latest accusations, first of all everything has got to be proven as far as what's fact and what's fiction," said Chris Low, WBIR contributor and SEC blogger for ESPN.com. "I think Tennessee has taken swift action. They pulled Mo Couch off the practice field. He will not go to Oregon this weekend. In fact, I doubt very seriously you'll see Mo Couch play another game for Tennessee."

"Behind the scenes, they [UT] spent most of the day today with Mo Couch. They spent hours with him this morning investigating and looking into it," said Brent Hubbs with Volquest.com.

None of the latest accusations happened under the watch of current head coach Butch Jones. Nonetheless, Jones took over the UT program knowing the Vols are on probation with the NCAA until August 2015. UT landed on probation and had probation extended due to violations that happened under head coach Lane Kiffin.

"The 14 months Lane Kiffin was here is what I call 'the gift that keeps on giving,' sarcastically," said Low. "Former coach Willie Mack Garza, who was here under the Kiffin regime, paid for prospects to visit Tennessee and last November the NCAA extended the Vols' probation until 2015. So the Vols are still on probation, which means they're still on the hot seat so to speak and the NCAA has a tendency to hit you a little bit harder."

If the accusations are true that Bray or Couch received money while they were students at UT, the NCAA could do a variety of things to punish the Vols.

"For Couch, he could be retroactively ruled ineligible and any game he played in this year or last year that Tennessee won could be vacated. The same goes for Bray last year," said Low. "With Couch, you feel sure that's why UT is unlikely to risk playing him in any more games."

Couch is not playing this weekend at Oregon, although the team has officially attributed Couch's absence to "heat exhaustion."

Right now it's too early to say what the NCAA could do about Bray or Couch taking money from an agent, but both Hubbs and Low agree UT benefits from the infractions occurring under a previous coach.

"I don't think right now there's any cause for great panic. As long as there's no evidence Tennessee had knowledge of this taking place and didn't do anything about it," said Hubbs.

"Here's Butch Jones who by all accounts Tennessee doing things the right way. And I do think that probably works in Tennessee's favor," said Low.

Regardless of the potential NCAA fallout, the publicity surrounding the current accusations is not desired by a program trying to rebuild under Jones.

"From Tennessee's standpoint, its not the kind of story you want to have. Tennessee spends a lot of time educating their players on what you can and cant do. Who you can take a benefit from and who you cant take a benefit from and the repercussions of doing that. And that's obviously something Tennessee is dealing with now with Mo Couch," said Hubbs.

Hubbs also said he believes the situation with Couch could carry over to other debates about money in college athletics.

"Why did Mo Couch need to take money from somebody? Why did he need a Western Union transfer in May or June? You know, Mo is married, he has a small child he is trying to raise, and they live here in Knoxville. It is going to stir up that debate from some people about paying college athletes again, which is a separate story," said Hubbs.


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