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Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer denies knowing Arian Foster was paid

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer doesn’t buy Arian Foster’s claims that he was paid while a running back with the Vols.

In a Sports Illustrated story last week, Foster, who is now a running back with the NFL's Houston Texans, said he took money from “side people” to help pay his bills, which is an NCAA violation.

"Side people always offer you money all the time, just random people usually. `Can I take care of you?' " Foster said Friday. "It happens all the time. When you're at college and your family doesn't make a lot of money, it's hard to make ends meet. ... Toward the end of the month, you run out every month. It's a problem all across America. It's just when you play top-tier Division I football, there's people that are willing to help you out. I got helped out."

Fulmer said he wasn’t aware of Foster’s claims and that is he were, he would have done something about it.

"As the head coach at Tennessee for 17 years, I took great pride in having a program that was NCAA compliant, as did our staff and administration," Fulmer said in a statement released to the Associated Press on Sunday. "If we knew of a violation, big or small, we reported it."

Foster never said how much money he received or who paid him, but noted he was unapologetic about taking cash and endorsed college athletes being paid.

"I don't know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation -- my senior year, I was getting money on the side," Foster said. "I really didn't have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, 'Man, be careful.' But there's nothing wrong with it. And you're not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”

Is it surprising that Fulmer didn’t know anything about it? Not really. If Foster was being paid by people outside of the program – people who knew the issues surrounding paying players – they probably would have done their best to give Fulmer deniability.

Or Fulmer’s lying to avoid getting slapped with an NCAA show-cause, which would essentially boot him from college football. Only the guys who shelled out the money (and Fulmer) know for sure.

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