How NCAA restrictions on NIL collectives could impact Tennessee Vols recruiting

Adam Sparks
Knoxville News Sentinel
View Comments

The NCAA has amended its name, image, likeness rules and plans to retroactively investigate "improper behavior" and NIL collectives involved in recruiting players over the past 10 months.

The new guidance could impact Spyre Sports Group, the collective that pays University of Tennessee athletes for their NIL rights. The Athletic also reported that Spyre has communicated with UT recruits, including five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava.

The NCAA rule also potentially counters a new Tennessee state legislation permitting universities to have direct relationships with collectives and allow them to make presentations on campus to recruits.

No collectives, schools or athletes were named in the NCAA release Monday.

Spyre Sports did not immediately respond to a Knox News request for comment, and UT declined to comment.

NIL IN TENNESSEE:How new Tennessee law allows colleges to facilitate NIL payments to players

Per NCAA rule, boosters cannot recruit or provide benefits to prospective student-athletes. In its release, the NCAA recognized NIL collectives as boosters.

"The guidance defines as a booster any third-party entity that promotes an athletics program, assists with recruiting or assists with providing benefits to recruits, enrolled student-athletes or their family members," the release said.

"The definition could include 'collectives' set up to funnel name, image and likeness deals to prospective student-athletes or enrolled student-athletes who might be considering transferring. NCAA recruiting rules preclude boosters from recruiting and/or providing benefits to prospective student-athletes."

The Tennessee football team runs through the T during a NCAA football game against Tennessee Tech at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

The NCAA's new guidance is effective immediately.

However, the release said "violations that occurred prior to May 9, 2022, the board directed the enforcement staff to review the facts of individual cases but to pursue only those actions that clearly are contrary to the published interim policy, including the most severe violations of recruiting rules or payment for athletics performance."

The NCAA issued its initial guidance on NIL on June 30, 2021. The amended approach is intended to limit collectives to paying athletes already enrolled in the university rather than recruits and potential transfers.

It could trigger a series of antitrust lawsuits as collectives push back against NCAA restrictions increasingly accepted over the past few months as state laws widened the reach of NIL.

In its release, the NCAA said it expects universities to self-report any potential violations. The new Tennessee legislation, effective April 20, opened communication between collectives and universities to work together in following NCAA rules. 

“We currently have several checks and balances internally to make sure we’re following the law,” James Clawson, co-founder/CEO of Spyre Sports, said April 25. “But now with the new (state) amendment, we’ll be able to have even better communication with the (UT) compliance department.

“We just want to provide student-athletes with the best NIL experience possible, and this new ability to have open lines of communication with the university at all levels will help ensure that we’re all aligned in our vision.”

NCAA Division I Board of Directors chair Jere Morehead, the president of the University of Georgia, said the new guidance was needed to "address some of the challenges and improper behaviors that exist in the name, image and likeness environment that may violate our long-established recruiting rules.

"While the NCAA may pursue the most outrageous violations that were clearly contrary to the interim policy adopted last summer, our focus is on the future," Morehead continued. "... The board expects all Division I institutions to follow our recruiting rules and operate within these reasonable expectations."

Reach Adam Sparks at adam.sparks@knoxnews.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

View Comments