Maurice Couch Declared Permanently Ineligible Following Luther Davis Story

In this picture, Maurice Couch is No. 44 on Tennessee - Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

The Tennessee defensive lineman is apparently the first player punished in the NCAA investigation of impermissible benefits from Davis. But will he be the last?

As a practical matter, what appears to be the most recent news about the pay-and-play allegations that Yahoo! broke last month doesn't really mean that much for SEC football. As a potential canary in the coal mine for the scandal as a whole, though, this could -- strong emphasis on could -- end up meaning quite a lot.

Being very careful, that doesn't actually say that this is tied to the Yahoo! story. But if you put two and two together, it's not particularly hard to figure out where this is coming from.

Again, Maurice Couch's ineligibility probably won't affect Tennessee any more than it already has. He hasn't played since the Western Kentucky game just a few days before the Yahoo! story was published, so it's not like Couch has been tearing up the field for the Vols and will now be removed from their lineup. Tennessee will do just as well (or poorly) as they were doing before.

But if this is a sign that the NCAA has found some smoke to these allegations -- and how could they not, with a paper trail as long as the Oregon trail? -- or that some of the figures in the Yahoo! report are cooperating, it could be a legitimate concern for Alabama's most recent national title. Because if Fluker is indeed guilty of impermissible benefits, and if the NCAA declares that he should have been ineligible, and if they vacate all of Fluker's games as a result of that, then the BCS is likely to follow suit by vacating Alabama's title.

We're a long way away from that, that's a long list of ifs, and anyone trying to discern future NCAA decisions from the organization's past verdicts is embarking on a fool's errand. But if I were in Tuscaloosa right now, I might not feel quite as comfortable about this as I did yesterday.

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