Football

Tennessee: NCAA rules Couch permanently ineligible

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The NCAA has ruled Tennessee defensive lineman Maurice Couch permanently ineligible following a September report that he received improper benefits.

Tennessee's football program released a statement through its Twitter account Friday that Couch had been ruled ineligible and that it plans to appeal. Tennessee athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton confirmed the accuracy of the tweet.

Couch tweeted that "at the end of the day, what's most important is I have my family, my degree and love n support from the Volnation." Couch added in a separate tweet, "and thanks to UT, coaches, teammates, Volnation, and everyone else involved sincerely appreciate everything you done for me."

Couch hasn't played since a Sept. 11 report by Yahoo Sports that Couch, former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, former Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and former Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis received payments from Luther Davis, who acted as a go-between for the players with 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 23-year-old Couch, who is married with a daughter, 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 (4-4, 1-3 SEC) plays Saturday at No. 10 Missouri (7-1, 3-1).

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