Five Southeastern Conference football stars violated NCAA rules by receiving extra benefits prior to completing their collegiate careers, a Yahoo Sports investigation has found. The benefits – which in some cases came from multiple individuals – were conveyed to University of Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, University of Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, Mississippi State University defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Mississippi State wideout Chad Bumphis.
Fluker, Bray and Cox are all currently on NFL rosters. Bumphis was recently released by the Miami Dolphins. Couch is a senior starter for the Volunteers this season.
The identities of these players were revealed in a web of financial and text message records belonging to former Crimson Tide defensive end Luther Davis. The records were turned over to Yahoo Sports by a source with ties to the NFL agent community who alleged that Davis was acting as an intermediary between several high-profile college football stars and multiple NFL agents and financial advisers.
Davis declined to comment for this story. However, Yahoo Sports 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 football players. Yahoo Sports also found that three NFL agents and three financial advisers engaged Davis in transactions totaling $45,550. The three agents were Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips. The financial advisers were Jason Jernigan, Mike Rowan and Hodge Brahmbhatt.
Simms, Schaffer, Phillips, Rowan and Brahmbhatt, through his attorney, each confirmed giving money to Davis – but each said they had no knowledge of, and did not instruct Davis to provide benefits to players. Jernigan declined comment. Another agent who was listed on a travel itinerary in Davis' records, Isaac Conner, said Davis was a point of contact to reach multiple SEC players but denied any knowledge of Davis' financial dealings.
A defensive end for the Crimson Tide from 2007-10, Davis acted as a "concierge" between budding NFL draft picks, agents and financial advisers following his college career, five sources told Yahoo Sports. Davis signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2011, but has not been on an NFL roster since being released in training camp prior to that season.
All told, the records show agents and financial advisers moved at least $45,550 to Davis between September 2011 and December 2012. During that same timeframe, records also show at least $12,700 in cash, airfare, living expenses or other receipts moving from Davis to the five players. In addition to that amount, Yahoo Sports also obtained a line-item invoice of 49 transactions from February 2013 that Davis emailed to Fluker's onetime financial adviser Hodge Brahmbhatt. Within the email, Davis listed $33,755 in expenditures under the subject line "D.J. Fluker Invoice."
[Yahoo Sports exclusive: View all investigation documents]
If proven by the NCAA, the transactions could violate Bylaw 126.96.36.199, which prohibits athletes from receiving benefits from agents or marketing representatives. Like the highly publicized NCAA case against the University of Southern California and Reggie Bush, a violation of that bylaw could retroactively nullify a portion of each player's eligibility, including Fluker, who was an All-American at offensive tackle during Alabama's 2012 national championship season. It could also raise additional issues for Tennessee and Mississippi State, which are both currently on probation until the summer of 2015 for previous rules violations in their respective football programs.
"We have been aware of some of the allegations in today's story and our compliance department was looking into this situation prior to being notified that this story was actually going to be published," Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement. "Our review is ongoing. We diligently educate our student-athletes on maintaining compliance with NCAA rules, and will continue to do so."
"Mississippi State constantly educates our student athletes about agent related issues," the school told Yahoo Sports in a statement. "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."
Tennessee officials declined comment. NCAA officials were contacted Wednesday morning and had no immediate comment.
Among the documents linking the players to extra benefits:
Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker
Yahoo Sports authenticated multiple transactions tying Fluker to Davis and others, including cash transfers, hotel stays, furniture, airline flights and other expenses. The records also included a pair of invoices – one submitted to Davis by the mother of an Alabama teammate for monies that had been spent on Fluker's mother, Annice; another sent from Davis to Fluker's onetime financial adviser Hodge Brahmbhatt.
As a junior, Fluker started all 14 games at right tackle for the Crimson Tide during the 2012 national championship season. After being tabbed as an All-American by multiple media outlets, he bypassed his senior season and declared for the NFL draft. The San Diego Chargers selected him with the No. 11 pick in April's draft.
Fluker and his mother Annice declined comment through his representatives.
Among the records authenticated by Yahoo Sports, in chronological order:
• An email to Davis dated Jan. 15, 2013, from Angela Pennington – the mother of Fluker's former Alabama teammate Kyle Pennington – seeking help recouping expenses she allegedly incurred on behalf of Fluker's mother, Annice. The email included auto-generated security information linking it to First Community Bank in Chatom, Ala. Pennington's Linkedin page lists her current job as vice president of operations at a Chatom, Ala., branch of First Community Bank. The email reads:
I hope and pray that all is well with you and your family. I have attached a copy of the invoice and I know I should not have allow [sic] this to go this far. Annice promised me that she was taking the job at the hospital when she came in January and every month she had another Excuse why she couldn't take it. I was depending on her to keep her end of the bargain and pay me back, but she hasn't. I would appreciate whatever you can do to get my money back.
Thanks for all your help!!!!"
The email was accompanied by a typed invoice with the header "January 2012-May 2012" and listed the name and a corresponding phone number of Fluker's mother Annice. The invoice was marked with a digital stamp indicating it had been scanned in at the bank where Pennington works.
The invoice lists 15 transactions totaling $2,375.71, including 11 corresponding check numbers allegedly used for payments, as well as three listings for "Money Order" and one for cash. The charges listed various expenses, including $1,311.60 for rent and an apartment deposit. There were two months of rent paid at Meagan Manor in Chatom, Ala. Yahoo Sports confirmed Fluker's mother briefly lived at Meagan Manor. The invoice also indicated Fluker's mother paid back a portion of the balance, with a line stating "Annice paid $500.00 cash on 3/5/2012," and that the outstanding debt was $1,875.71.
When contacted by Yahoo Sports, Pennington declined to comment on the invoice without Annice Fluker being present.
"I'm not comfortable talking about anybody else's business, especially with a complete stranger," Pennington said. "I would suggest you talk with Luther or Annice about that."
When asked if Davis had helped her recoup money she had spent on Fluker's mother, Pennington replied: "I'm not going to talk about that."
• A receipt showing that on May 18, 2012, Davis sent $300 to a "Danny Fluker" via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. D.J. Fluker and his father are both named Danny Fluker. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Alabama. Western Union requires a valid photo ID in the name of the individual receiving the transfer.
• A receipt showing that on May 19, 2012, Davis sent $200 to a "Danny Fluker" via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Alabama.
• A recruiting itinerary listing the names of "D. Fluker" and "E. Stinson" was also found among Davis' records. The itinerary included a passenger list on a private flight from Nashville, Tenn., that was scheduled to make stops in Starkville, Miss., and Gulf Shores, Ala., on July 3, 2012. Among 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 two Nashville attorneys associated with Conner – Ronald Stewart and Andre Johnson.
The notes for the Gulf Shores portion of the itinerary included: "Meeting at The Shrimp Basket," with a Gulf Shores address for the restaurant, and listed a courtesy car for "A. Johnson, I. Conner, R. Stewart, L. Davis, D. Fluker, E. Stinson."
Conner confirmed the recruiting trip to Yahoo Sports, and said the meeting was an introduction set up by Davis to meet Fluker and Alabama defensive tackle Ed Stinson. Conner said Fluker was in attendance but that Stinson was not. Conner also said that Fluker identified Davis as the man who was running his agent search process. Conner said A3 never paid Davis and that the agency never provided benefits to any players.
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"These were guys that [Davis] worked with from the management standpoint," Conner said. "I was introduced to [Davis] through Fletcher Cox, who played at Mississippi State. So the Mississippi State kids, I knew [Davis] had a relationship there. And he played at Alabama, so I knew he had a relationship there. So he said 'Look, I've got these kids I want you to meet.' So we said 'Fine, let's meet.' He said he was handling their [agent search] process, so we went down and met with some kids in Starkville, and then we went down to Gulf Breeze [Florida] and met with an Alabama player. And that was it."
• A receipt showing that on July 14, 2012, Davis paid $170.61 for a stay at the Embassy Suites Hotel in New Orleans. Additional documents showed the room was booked through Expedia travel and the room reservation was listed for a "Danny Lee Jesus Fluker."
• A receipt showing that on August 17, 2012, Davis paid $1,200 for a king-sized bedroom set from Sticks N Stuff in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and had it delivered to the Traditions Apartment complex near the Alabama campus. The payment for the bedroom set was later referenced by Davis in a "DJ Fluker invoice" sent to the player's onetime financial adviser, Hodge Brahmhatt. Text message records between Davis' phone and numbers tied to Fluker and Sticks N Stuff employee Shayne Roland also appeared to reference the purchase of the furniture. They included:
August 3, 2012
Phone number tied to Fluker: "Did you find out about the bed"
Phone number tied to Davis: "I just paid for the whole suit at sticks and it'll be in on the 17th"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "oh for real oh ok then."
August 17, 2012
Phone number tied to Sticks N Stuff employee Shayne Roland: "Got dj done just now. Bill [Sticks N Stuff employee Bill Askew] gave you about five hundred off at store. Me and partner cleaned room. Put clothes in closet. Bed on back porch. Set up everything. hope he likes it. If you get tickets from your job a couple for bill and my partner and a different game for me would be nice. But if not through your job then dont worry about it. Ill take care of my partner. Thanks luther. Got your receipt at store."
In July, Roland and Askew said they knew who Fluker was but could not recall any purchases for him, nor setting up any furniture for the player.
"We do deliveries occasionally and sometimes even set things up, but I never set up a bedroom suit with him anywhere around," Roland said of Fluker in July.
Roland also said in July the store did not grant discounts.
"One thing we make sure we never do is discount for students," Roland said. "Seriously. The prices you see are what we charge everybody. We don't discount. They can come in and say they're on the UA football team, gymnastics team, in the band, got a sick mother. We don't discount furniture for anybody. We sure don't do it for athletes. Even I know that's not a good thing to do. I don't guess it would get us in trouble, but somebody could get in trouble."
When contacted again in September with the text message records referencing "DJ" from his phone to the phone number linked to Davis, Roland declined to comment. However, during the second interview, Roland said that Sticks N Stuff does indeed give discounts – not selectively, but to everyone who shops at the store.
"There's no ifs ands or buts about that," Roland said. "When there's a discount that we can give, it doesn't matter who it is, we'll give it."
Asked if he had spoken to Alabama's athletic compliance office about discounts between his July and August interviews with Yahoo, Roland declined to comment, but offered to reach out and put Yahoo in touch with the school's compliance office.
• A receipt showing that on Oct. 29, 2012, Davis booked and paid $88.28 for a Nov, 4, 2012, reservation at a New Orleans Courtyard hotel. Additional documentation shows the reservation was sent to Fluker's girlfriend, Leah Montgomery. A hotel employee confirmed that the hotel stay was fulfilled and paid on the credit card used to book the room. However, Montgomery said the bill was paid by she and Fluker.
"That was a bye weekend for D.J. and Luther had come over to the house, just to talk," Montgomery said. "I told Luther, 'Hey, do you know anybody who has any Marriott rewards, because me and D.J. want to go to New Orleans this weekend and was like 'Yeah, one of my friends works for Marriott, I can get y'all a family and friends pass.' We paid for the room once we got there."
• An itinerary showing a round trip flight was purchased for a "Danny Jesus Fluker" on Dec. 6, 2012, for a flight on Dec. 9, 2012. The cost was $471.20 and was booked for travel from Pensacola, Fla., to Baltimore, with an evening return scheduled the same day. The offices of Jade Wealth Management and the home of financial adviser Hodge Brahmbhatt are both located roughly 40 miles from Baltimore. Three sources told Yahoo Sports that Brahmbhatt briefly served as a financial adviser for Fluker.
• Documentation showing that on Dec. 12, 2012, Davis received an email with a $3 million Hanleigh Insurance proposal to cover Fluker in case of injury. It listed Fluker's occupation as "Football Player" and listed Nash Brahmbhatt as the individual that requested the proposal. The premium for the policy quote from Hanleigh was listed as $6,283. Nash Brahmbhatt is the brother and partner of Hodge Brahmbhatt at Jade Wealth Management.
The email, which included the Hanleigh insurance document, was sent to Davis on Dec. 12, 2012, from Nash Brahmbhatt, and was copied to Hodge Brahmbhatt and Jade employee Amandeep Basi. It carried the subject line "Insured: D.J. Fluker, Lloyds of London." The attached message to Davis read:
Per our conversation attached is a quote for $3 Million in coverage for DJ until he signs his NFL contract or 8/1/2013, whichever occurs first. I just need a confirmation from DJ via email to bind the coverage so we can have him covered starting tomorrow. He will be covered 24/7 on and off the field.
Give me a call if you have any questions!!!
• Two weeks after that email, on Dec. 26, 2012, Davis' bank records showed a $5,000 deposit. Shortly after the deposit, Davis' phone had the following text exchange with a phone number tied to Fluker, in which there is discussion about a deposit by a "Hodge." From the text exchange:
Phone number tied to Davis (accompanied by a screen shot of a $5,000 deposit into Davis' bank account): "Hodge sent u this"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "What this bro?"
Phone number tied to Davis: "He sent u 5k today."
Phone number tied to Fluker: "To where"
Phone number tied to Davis: "My Wells Fargo acct. do you have a acct with them?"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "I don't"
Phone number tied to Davis: "Who all u bank with?"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "Regions. And compass"
On Dec. 28, 2012, Davis' phone had another round of text exchanges with the number tied to Fluker. They included:
Phone number tied to Fluker: "Hey I open a account at well Fargo"
Phone number tied to Davis: "Thanks! You just made it easier. Want me to transfer the 5?"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "Call me"
The number associated with Fluker then texted Davis a Wells Fargo bank account number. The text exchange concluded:
Phone number tied to Davis: "That's your Wells Fargo"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "Yea"
Phone number tied to Davis: "Transferring to what acct"
Phone number tied to Fluker: "Checking"
• Yahoo Sports also acquired an email that Davis sent to Hodge Brahmbhatt, with the subject line "DJ Fluker Invoice." The email listed 49 line-item transactions and a notation at the bottom: "Total: $33,755." The line items matched up with debit card charge transactions found in Davis' bank records and also matched multiple receipts authenticated by Yahoo Sports, including the $1,200 bed purchase at Sticks N Stuff.
Other line items included airfare on Delta, hotel lodging in Miami during the 2013 national championship game and retail purchases. The line item also included $18,020 in wire transfers and cash withdrawals.
In a statement to Yahoo Sports, Hodge Brahmbhatt's attorney Alan Futerfas said that Jade Management gave Davis "travel and expense moneys," but was not aware of any statements he was making to Fluker or anyone else about the purpose of the money. He added that Fluker had a brief relationship with Jade Management, which began after an introduction by Davis. Futerfas said none of Fluker's money was managed by Jade prior to him leaving the firm. He added that Davis' $33,755 invoice to D.J. Fluker "had nothing to do with the firm."
"The firm neither possessed nor managed a dime of Mr. Fluker's money and the firm merely forwarded the invoice to Mr. Fluker for his consideration," Futerfas said.
As for the Hanleigh insurance quote, Futerfas said the quote was requested by Fluker but ultimately never secured.
"Mr. Fluker had an insurance offer from another source and asked Mr. Brahmbhatt's firm to look at other options," Futerfas said. "The proposed Hanleigh policy was less expensive and, had it been accepted by Mr. Fluker, would indeed have become effective the next day. Importantly, the premium would not need to be paid until Mr. Fluker finished his collegiate career."
According to NCAA rules, such insurance coverage would have been considered an extra benefit because it would have begun prior to the national championship game.
• Documentation from Dec. 28, 2012, shows that Davis booked and paid $181.67 for a Dec. 30, 2012, stay at the New Orleans downtown Marriott. Documents show the reservation was sent to Fluker's girlfriend Leah Montgomery. A hotel employee confirmed that the hotel stay was fulfilled. A hotel employee said the reservation was paid on Davis' booking credit card. However, Montgomery said she and Fluker only received a discount and paid for the room themselves.
"Me and D.J. went down there for New Years," she said. "D.J. had a family and friends form so we wouldn't have to pay the full price for the room."
• Documentation from Expedia which shows Delta flights booked by Davis from Pensacola, Fla., to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for a Danny Fluker and Wendy Montgomery, identified by sources as the mother of Fluker's girlfriend. The tickets were purchased for $683.60 and the travel was slated for Jan. 5, 2013 – two days before the national championship game in Miami between Alabama and Notre Dame. Documentation also shows the flight itinerary was sent by Davis to Fluker's girlfriend Leah Montgomery. The Delta flights are also listed on the "DJ Fluker Invoice" sent from Davis to financial adviser Hodge Brahmbhatt.
Montgomery told Yahoo Sports her plane ticket to the national championship game was paid for by an associate of Davis named "Mila." However, she said she didn't know Mila's last name and wasn't aware that Davis could have been involved in the ticket payments.
"Basically, I'm friends with Mila," Montgomery said. "She was a female that was going to Miami with me and we were both going to Miami together, and she offered to pay for my plane ticket to get to Miami because at the time I wasn't able to get my ticket. And I didn't want to miss D.J.'s last game. … She is one of my good friends and later down the line I figured out that she and Luther had some dealings with each other.
"On Jan. 4 … I know that exact date because that was the date before I got my hair done and me and Mila had discussed her getting the plane ticket that day, and she told me that my mom could just give her the cash and she would book the plane tickets for me. I had no idea that it was being done by Luther. In our computer she sent me the email and the confirmation. She told me she would pay for mine and that my mom and D.J.'s dad or whoever could just give her the cash and she would just book the plane tickets."
Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch and quarterback Tyler Bray
Yahoo Sports authenticated six transactions tied to current Volunteers defensive end Maurice Couch and former quarterback Tyler Bray. All were cash transfers and included processing receipts issued after each transaction. Five of the transactions were prior to the 2012 season, and one took place during the 2012 season.
Bray's agent Steve Dubin declined comment. Tennessee declined comment.
Among the records authenticated by Yahoo Sports, in chronological order:
• A receipt dated May 17, 2012, showing Davis sent $400 to Couch via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Tennessee. Western Union requires a valid photo ID in the name of the individual receiving the transfer.
• A receipt dated June 1, 2012, showing Davis sent $200 to Bray via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Tennessee.
• A receipt dated June 7, 2012, showing Davis sent $500 to Couch via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Tennessee.
• A receipt dated July 1, 2012, showing Davis sent $700 to Matthew Schroeder via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The transaction receipt for Schroeder was coupled with a transfer form listing "Tyler Bray" in the recipient field. However, Bray's name was crossed out and replaced with Schroeder.
After reviewing Bray's Twitter account, Yahoo Sports found that Bray had interacted with a Matthew Schroeder consistently dating back to 2011, referring to Schroeder as being part of "the crew." Bray also made references about trips to the mall with Schroeder, as well as "burger night" at a Knoxville restaurant, and an accident with a deer that included Bray, Schroeder and two others.
When contacted by Yahoo Sports, Schroeder affirmed that Bray was a friend and initially agreed to an interview. When informed the story was about Bray's involvement with Davis, Schroeder said he didn't know who Davis was. When asked why his name appeared as a recipient on a $700 Western Union transaction from Davis that also listed Bray, Schroeder replied: "Uh, man, I have no comment on that." Schroeder then declined to continue the interview.
• A receipt dated Aug. 20, 2012, showing Davis sent $200 to Couch via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Tennessee.
• A receipt dated Nov. 10, 2012, showing Davis sent $250 to Couch via Western Union from Bruno's Food & Pharmacy in Tuscaloosa. The receipt noted that the cash was picked up at a location in Tennessee.
Bray started all 12 games for the Volunteers in 2012, throwing 34 touchdown passes and breaking Peyton Manning's single-game passing yardage record. Tennessee went 5-7 and did not play in a bowl game. Bray declared for the NFL draft following the season, hiring agents Don Yee and Steve Dubin. He went undrafted and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie free agent.
Couch played in all 12 games for the Volunteers in 2012, starting nine and finishing with 38 tackles and one sack. He returned for his senior season and has four tackles and one sack through two games.
Mississippi State wideout Chad Bumphis and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox
Yahoo Sports authenticated airfare purchases tied to former Mississippi State football stars Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis. Davis' records included a receipt showing he paid for airline tickets from Birmingham, Ala., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Priced at $1,259.20, the tickets were issued in the name of Davis, Cox, Bumphis and former Mississippi State defensive back Johnthan Banks. From the records Yahoo Sports reviewed, it appeared that only Davis, Cox and Bumphis took the flights. The flights were purchased on Dec. 23, 2011, and the travel took place from Jan. 3-6 in 2012.
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The records included baggage receipts issued when Bumphis and Cox checked luggage during the return portion of the flight on Jan. 6. The baggage receipts listed the same confirmation number as the receipt issued to Davis for the flight purchases.
Cox declined comment through his agent, Todd France. Bumphis did not respond to requests for comment made through his agent, Eugene Parker.
One week after the tickets were purchased, Cox and Bumphis started in Mississippi State's 23-17 victory over Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, 2011. Cox declared for the NFL draft following the season. He was chosen in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bumphis returned to the Bulldogs for his senior season and starred, leading the team in receiving yardage (922) and touchdown catches (12). After failing to be selected in the 2013 NFL draft, he signed with Parker and joined the Miami Dolphins as a rookie free agent. The Dolphins released him on Aug. 31.
The names of Bumphis and Banks also appeared on a printed recruiting itinerary that was found among Davis' records. The itinerary included a passenger list on a private flight that made a stop in Starkville, Miss., on July 3, 2012. Among 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 two Nashville attorneys associated with Conner – Ronald Stewart and Andre Johnson.
The itinerary listed a July 3, 2012, departure from Nashville, Tenn., with Conner, Stewart and Johnson aboard, landing in Starkville, Miss., that same day. The notes included: "Meeting at Little Dooey BBQ," with a Starkville address for the restaurant, and listed a courtesy car for "A. Johnson, I. Conner, R. Stewart, L. Davis, C. Bumphis, J. Banks, J. Boyd."
Conner confirmed the recruiting trip to Yahoo Sports, and said the meeting was an introduction set up by Davis to meet Bumphis, Banks and Mississippi State defensive tackle Josh Boyd. Conner said Bumphis and Boyd were in attendance but that Banks was not. Boyd did not respond to requests for comment made through his agent, Rodney Edwards.
Conner also said he initially met Davis in 2011, through Cox, whom Conner's agency was attempting to sign. He added that Bumphis also identified Davis as the man who was running his agent search process. Conner said A3 never paid Davis and that the agency never provided benefits to any players.