This week, a federal judge in Tennessee will decided whether to grant a preliminary injunction stopping the NCAA from enforcing its NIL rules. Earlier this month, the state attorney generals in Tennessee and Virginia sued the NCAA alleging that the association’s rules precluding using NIL as a recruiting inducement is a violation of federal antitrust law. The plaintiff states argue that not allowing NIL to be used as a recruiting inducement forces athletes to commit, enroll, and/or transfer without fully understanding their NIL opportunities, thereby putting them at a disadvantage. In the complaint, the plaintiff states contend that very few athletes go pro and their most marketable time is in college, and therefore they should be able to negotiate the best NIL deal possible. Accordingly, the plaintiff states sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the NCAA’s rules. It is important to note that this lawsuit came immediately after news broke that The University of Tennessee was being investigated for NIL violations.
The NCAA’s Investigation Into The University of Tennessee
The NCAA is currently investigating The University of Tennessee for activity surrounding the recruitment of Tennessee’s quarterback Nico Iamaleava. The NIL Collective, associated with The University of Tennessee, Spyre Collective addressed the allegations and gave an accounting of what transpired. Per a statement released by the Spyre Collective’s attorney, Tom Mars, the collective entered a deal with Iamaleava in 2022. The deal was negotiated independent of The University of Tennessee or anyone associated with the athletic department. The deal involved a limited assignment of Iamaleava’s NIL rights irrespective of which school he chose to attend. Per Mars’ statement, nothing in the agreement constitutes any form of inducement for an athlete to attend any one school or play on any one team. Those involved hold that the deal was fully consistent with the existing NIL guidelines and had nothing to do with recruiting Iamaleava’s to Tennessee or any other school. The University has not yet been issued a notice of allegations. The issue is still ongoing.
The Judge Has Already Denied the TRO
The judge has already denied the TRO. Accordingly, it is likely that preliminary injunction will also be denied because there is no evidence of any irreparable harm. However, the plaintiff states are putting their best foot forward as they submitted a supplemental brief in support of the preliminary injunction. The supplemental brief includes statements from Tennessee football coach, John Heupel. Heupel contends that the NCAA’s NIL rules causes harm that is impossible to fix later. However, this does not mean that the preliminary injunction will be granted. Whether the preliminary injunction is granted or not, the NCAA has an uphill battle in this case. Although the judge denied the TRO, he stated the plaintiff states were likely to be successful based on the merits of the case that the rules violated federal antitrust law. The judge stated that the NCAA’s current NIL rules “likely foster economic exploitation of student-athletes.” Given this, it appears that the NCAA may be in trouble as it relates to its NIL recruiting rules.
To assess your social media use or to assist current or prospective college athletes with preparing for NIL opportunities download my Social Media Audit Form. Dowloading the Social Media Audit Form will also get you access to my newsletter. For more on college athletes' name, image, and likeness rights follow me on Twitter @esquire_coach and on Instagram and TikTok @the_esquirecoach. To receive updates from The Esquire Coach Blog directly to your email please subscribe below.