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Yahoo Strikes Again, Puts Alabama In NCAA’s Crosshairs

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (CBSMiami) – The last time Miami Hurricanes fans heard about a Yahoo! Sports investigation, it opened Pandora ’s Box against the U and led to a NCAA investigation that is still going. But this time, Yahoo! has revealed a bombshell investigation against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide and other SEC schools.

Wednesday, Yahoo! Sports reported five SEC players received improper benefits during their college careers. Among the players were former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and defensive lineman Maurice Couch, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and wide receiver Chad Bumphis.

Couch is a senior for the Volunteers. Fluker, Bray and Cox are currently playing in the NFL while Bumphis was recently released by the Miami Dolphins.

The Yahoo! report alleged former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis and an unnamed NFL source who said Davis was the go-between for the players with NFL agents and financial advisers.

The Yahoo report said that it was able to authenticate text message records, Western Union fund transfers, banking statements, flight receipts, and other financial material linking both Davis and the five college players.

Yahoo said records show Davis distributing at least $12,700 in cash, airfare and other expenses to the five players. The report included a 49-item invoice totaling $33,755 from February 2013 that Davis emailed to Fluker’s onetime financial adviser, Hodge Brahmbhatt.

Agents Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips and financial adviser Mike Rowan each confirmed giving money to Davis, according to Yahoo, but said they didn’t instruct the former player to provide benefits to players, and didn’t know of him doing so.

Yahoo said financial advisers Jason Jernigan and Brahmbhatt declined comment. The transactions could violate NCAA rules prohibiting benefits from agents or representatives.

If the NCAA was able to prove the legitimacy of the allegations in the Yahoo report, the actions by the players and agents would violate Bylaw 12.3.1.2 which forbids athletes from receiving benefits from agents or marketing representatives.

If the Bylaw sounds familiar, it’s the same bylaw former USC running back Reggie Bush violated that sent the Trojans into NCAA purgatory. USC received heavy sanctions including a two-year bowl ban, four years of probation, 30 lost scholarships and 14 vacated victories including a national championship victory for violating the rule.

In other words, if the NCAA proved Fluker took impermissible benefits and declared him retroactively ineligible; the University of Alabama could be forced to vacate the last two national championships.

Not only that, but Tennessee and Mississippi State are already on probation, which if the NCAA found violations, would make them repeat offenders. The NCAA stiffens penalties when schools become repeat offenders.

Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said Wednesday that if the allegations did happen, they are not happening right now. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he hadn’t read the report, but that he was pleased with how his high-profile players have handled temptations.

But just as quickly as Saban praised his players, he became irritated the media wasn’t asking about Saturday’s game against the Texas A&M Aggies and stormed out of the interview room saying, “Appreciate your interest in the game.”

The NCAA hasn’t issued a statement on the Yahoo Sports report as of Thursday afternoon. The collegiate governing body is under fire for a litany of missteps including the investigation into the University of Miami after Yahoo’s report featuring disgraced former UM booster Nevin Shapiro.

The NCAA continues to hold Miami in limbo over two months after the school appeared in front of the Committee on Infractions. The COI has yet to issue a final finding on the Shapiro case and hasn’t shown any inclination that a decision is coming soon.

With the new wave of allegations against Alabama and the other SEC schools, the NCAA faces the task of how to come down on UM. If the COI comes down hard on the Canes, the school may take the collegiate governing body to court over the botched investigation.

Still, the NCAA is facing fights on multiple fronts from UM, from the Ed O’Bannon case on whether players should get paid, and a major restructuring effort gaining momentum in the college football power conferences.

While UM fans continue to wait for the NCAA to act, Alabama fans now go on the clock waiting to see if the NCAA will come after them once again.

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