A Yahoo! Sports investigation alleges that former Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis served as an intermediary for agents and financial advisers to compensate five SEC football players while they were still active college athletes. Among those players identified is former Alabama standout D.J. Fluker, a San Diego Chargers rookie offensive lineman who was a key player on Alabama's 2012 BCS National Championship team.
The alleged transactions would violate NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168, which prohibits college athletes from receiving benefits from agents or marketing representatives. They could also have an effect on Alabama's most recent national championship. USC vacated two BCS title appearances, including one championship, following penalties related to extra benefits received by former tailback Reggie Bush during his career with the Trojans.
The benefits did not come from individuals directly associated with the schools, the report says. Two other current NFL players — former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and former Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox — were also reported as accepting benefits in the report.
Former Mississippi State wideout Chad Bumphis, who was recently released by the Miami Dolphins, and current Tennessee senior defensive end Maurice Couch also allegedly broke rules.
Bumphis hung up on a reporter from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger when asked about the report and did not answer ensuing calls.
Wednesday night, Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Couch would not play Saturday at Oregon, citing heat exhaustion.
Yahoo Sports! cited text message records, Western Union fund transfers, banking statements and flight receipts to link Davis to the five athletes. Three NFL 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 that he was passing funds along to the college players.
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."
The report also includes an itinerary for a July, 2012 recruiting trip involving Fluker, Nashville-based agent Isaac Conner and two Nashville attorneys Ronald Stewart and Andre Johnson that also 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 that his agency had not paid Davis nor 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.
"For as high profile players as we've had around here, I'm really pleased with the way most of them, for the most part, have managed their circumstances and situations and focused on what they've needed to do for the University of Alabama.
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 above board, 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."
Both Tennessee and Mississippi State are on probation until the summer of 2015 for previous rules violations.
In a statement Wednesday, Mississippi State said, "Mississippi State constantly educates our student athletes about agent related issues. We've also worked closely with the Mississippi Secretary of State's office in recent years to strengthen the Mississippi Uniform Agent Act. As always, we will do our due diligence to evaluate any potential concerns. "
Fluker was a starter at offensive tackle on the Crimson Tide's 2012 BCS national championship team. On April 23, during the week of the NFL draft, Fluker's Twitter account @DJFluker76 included references to him being paid while in college. "Yea I took $ n college so wat," the tweet read. "I did wat i had to do."
Fluker denied tweeting the claim the next day, saying, "I'm not frustrated about it because, at the end of the day, it wasn't me. There's always going to be people that want to see you do good and other people that want to see you do bad. That's the whole point of life."
Fluker's agent, Deryk Gilmore, said at the time, "It's unfortunate people would do this," Gilmore said. "Anyone who knows D.J., knows this isn't true. He had nothing to do with it."
Fluker continued, "They know it's not me," he said. "They look at my Twitter and see it's all Bible verses or motivational tweets. That's about it."
Another agent, Daniel Rose, vouched for Fluker and Gilmore at the time, adding, "He's going to come into a lot of money in the next week and he's going to have to learn there are people who will try to take advantage of that situation."
Gilmore did not respond to a message seeking comment.