KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Butch Jones says defensive lineman Maurice Couch has been ruled ineligible for Saturday's game against No. 2 Oregon while the university investigates allegations he was one of five Southeastern Conference players to receive improper benefits.
"As of right now, the situation with Mo Couch is we've declared him ineligible for this game," Jones said Thursday during his weekly interview with Nashville radio station 104.5. "Right now our compliance group is currently in the process of working through all the details and logistics of the situation. That's all we kind of know right now, but as of right now moving forward, he will not make the trip to Oregon."
Jones later told the Associated Press via text message that it was Tennessee's compliance department that ruled the 6-foot-2, 304-pound Couch ineligible.
A Yahoo Sports report cited text messages and financial records of former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis, along with an unnamed NFL source who said Davis was a go-between for the players with NFL agents and financial advisers. Couch, a senior from Orlando, Fla., was the only active college player named in the report, which said Couch had received four payments totaling $1,350.
The other players named in the report were former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, former Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and former Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis.
Jones wouldn't discuss Couch's status for the rest of the season.
"All I can speak of right now is the present," Jones said in his radio interview, "and the present is he will not be accompanying us to Oregon."
Couch, 23, played each of Tennessee's first two games as a reserve and made four tackles and one sack. He made 38 tackles and one sack while starting nine games last season.
The Yahoo report named three NFL agents and three financial advisers who Yahoo said engaged in transactions totaling at least $45,550 with Davis between September 2011 and December 2012. Yahoo said records show Davis distributing at least $12,700 in cash, airfare and other expenses to the five players.
Tennessee had issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying it was looking into the situation.
"The education of our student-athletes regarding NCAA rules and extra benefits is and will continue to be the central focus of our compliance efforts," Tennessee athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said. "We are aware of the article and are examining all of the relevant facts."