September 12, 2013 10:33:36 AM
STARKVILLE -- A national report suggests five football players from three Southeastern Conference schools received impermissible benefits.
Players from Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi State were named in a Yahoo Sports report that claims the players received benefits from former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis, who is believed to be an intermediary between several college football standouts and NFL agents and financial advisers.
The benefits were reportedly provided to former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, current Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, former MSU defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and former MSU wide receiver Chad Bumphis.
MSU officials confirmed to The Dispatch the school has enlisted the services of attorney Mike Glazier as legal counsel. Glazier, head of law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King's Collegiate Sports Practice Group, has served as legal counsel for the MSU athletic department in NCAA investigations involving football player Will Redmond and basketball player Renardo Sidney.
The Dispatch also has learned MSU officials informed the SEC office of the matter Wednesday afternoon, and will continue to communicate with it if further facts are determined.
The MSU football program already is on probation through the 2015 season, serving a small scholarship reduction and facing a loss of four recruiting visits by the NCAA. A NCAA investigation revealed in June a former booster assisted Redmond, a Memphis area recruit, in purchasing an automobile at a discount and securing other financial benefits. Redmond, a sophomore defensive back, was re-instated after paying back $2,660 in benefits, forfeiting a year of eligibility, and being withheld from the first five games of this season.
The website report provided copies of receipts for the purchase of airfare and an itinerary from Davis of a meeting at Little Dooey's restaurant in Starkville. According to the report, Davis' records included a receipt showing airline tickets from Birmingham, Ala., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., worth $1,259.40 were issued to Davis, Cox, Bumphis, and former MSU defensive back Johnthan Banks.
Text messages and phone calls to Cox by The Dispatch weren't returned.
"Mississippi State constantly educates our student athletes about agent related issues," MSU Athletics Compliance Director Bracky Brett said in a statement Wednesday. "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."
The Dispatch reported on Jan. 3, 2012, Cox had declared for the draft two days earlier. According to the Yahoo Sports report, the tickets were purchased Dec. 23, 2011. A week later, Cox and Bumphis started in MSU's 23-17 victory against Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl. However, the tickets were not used until after Cox had declared his intention to forgo his final year of eligibility and was in the process of searching for an agent.
As a senior in 2012, Bumphis led the Bulldogs in receiving yardage (922) and touchdown catches (12) in an 8-5 season that culminated with a loss to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl. The Miami Dolphins signed Bumphis as an undrafted free agent, but he was released a week before the start of the NFL regular season.
According to the report, the names of Bumphis and Banks also appeared on a printed recruiting itinerary that included a passenger list on a private flight that stopped in Starkville on July 3, 2012. The passengers listed were Davis and three others with ties to NFL talent representation: Isaac Conner, an agent from the Allegiant Athletic Agency (known as A3), and Ronald Stewart and Andre Johnson, two Nashville attorneys associated with Conner. Conner confirmed the recruiting trip to Yahoo Sports, and said the meeting was an introduction set up by Davis to meet Bumphis, Banks, and MSU defensive tackle Josh Boyd. Conner said Bumphis and Boyd attended but Banks didn't show up.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.