Yahoo! Sports investigation isn't Tennessee's first brush with NCAA allegations.
When Tennessee was muddling along at 4-6 in mid-November last year, Vols quarterback Tyler Bray told reporters he should be judged by his won-lost record, not his stats.
"I'm paid to win football games," he said.
Realizing he had just thrown a verbal interception, Bray backtracked.
"I mean … my education. That's what the SEC likes to call 'getting paid,' " he said.
As it turns out, Bray might have been double-dipping — an education in one hand and money from an agent in the other. And the same goes for his teammate, Mo Couch.
In a story filled with specifics and heavy on documentation, Yahoo! Sports reported Bray and Couch were two of five SEC players that received impermissible money and/or extra benefits from an intermediary for agents.
Couch is the only one of the five still playing college ball and thus the only one facing possible NCAA penalties.
So what happens now? Good question. UT issued a statement saying it is "examining all of the relevant facts" and is committed to educating its athletes about NCAA rules regarding extra benefits.
UT is doing the prudent thing by withholding Couch from competition pending its own investigation. In time, UT may declare him ineligible and ask him to repay any money he received and then appeal to the NCAA for his reinstatement. Assuming he can come up with the money — and that's not a given — he might be suspended a game or two at most and then return to the team.
And that would close the book, right? Well, not quite.
UT football is still on NCAA probation due to transgressions on the coaching watch of — you guessed it — Lane Kiffin. Like a Hallmark card or an STD, he truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
The probationary period originally was supposed to end on Aug. 23, 2012. However, the NCAA became aware of major rules violations by then-assistant coach Willie Mack Garza in the recruitment of Lache Seastrunk. The NCAA infractions committee extended UT's probation for three years.
It'll be interesting to see how the NCAA responds. This could be a case where UT benefits from all the misbehavior going on elsewhere. In the same Yahoo! report, former Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker comes off as a guy with both hands out to any agent that happened by. He allegedly got everything from thousands in cash to a new bed.
Even before the latest report, the NCAA docket was overflowing. There is no closure on the Miami case that has been in the works for almost three years. Oklahoma State is reeling in the face of an exposé by "Sports Illustrated." Who knows when a new revelation about Johnny Manziel will come out? The list goes on and on.
Beyond that, we're not talking about a situation where a member of UT's coaching staff knowingly violated a rule. There is no indication anyone on the staff knew Couch was getting money via wire transfers.
At its heart, the NCAA rulebook is intended to prevent a program from gaining an advantage over the competition by cheating. Where's the advantage here? When you look at this and other stories, it's pretty clear that agents are funneling money to players everywhere. And if you think your favorite team is untainted, you need to wake up and smell the Gatorade.
Agents are throwing money at anything that moves. Think about it: Couch is a good college player but is he going to make it in the NFL and thus sign a contract that will return an agent's preliminary investment? Maybe. Maybe not. He didn't start for the Vols in the first two games. I doubt if Mel Kiper doesn't know his name.
If an agent is sending money to a marginal pro prospect like Couch, how many other players are receiving wire transfers, checks or straight cash from any of the hundreds of agents out there?
I'm not excusing the actions of Couch, Bray and any other players who are on the take. It's against the rules and they know it.
But considering everything else that's going on, this too shall pass.