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NCAA defends NIL guidelines amid lawsuit from state of Tennessee, warns of further ‘competitive imbalance’

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The NCAA feverishly defended the need for tighter name, image and likeness (NIL) regulation Wednesday amid a federal antirust lawsuit filed by the attorney generals from Tennessee and Virginia challenging the legality of the association’s guidelines. The rebuttal comes a day after CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported the NCAA was investigating potentially major violations at Tennessee related to NIL dealings across multiple sports involving the marketing firm Spyre Sports Group.

In a statement, the NCAA said that while it “does not comment on specific infractions cases, it is important to remember that NCAA member schools and conferences not only make the rules but routinely call for greater enforcement of those rules and holding violators accountable.”

“In recent years, this has been especially true as it relates to establishing and enforcing a consistent set of national rules intended to manage the name, image and likeness environment,” the NCAA said. 

At the heart of Tennessee and Virginia v. NCAA is the claim that NCAA violated antitrust laws by denying student-athletes an ability to earn total NIL compensation. According to Dodd, the plaintiffs could soon seek a temporary injunction that has potential to suspend NIL rules set by the NCAA in Summer 2021, when the governing body lifted its longtime ban on NIL compensation. 

“This legal action would exacerbate what our members themselves have frequently described as a ‘wild west’ atmosphere, further titling competitive imbalance among schools in neighboring states and diminishing protections for student-athletes from potential exploitation,” the NCAA continued. “The NCAA remains firmly committed to protecting and expanding student-athletes’ NIL rights and opportunities. However, our membership has steadfastly supported the prohibition on impermissible recruiting contacts, booster involvement in recruiting prospects and the use of NIL offers as recruiting inducements.” 

As for the NCAA’s investigation into Tennessee, multiple sports are implicated, including the Volunteers football program, according to Dodd. ESPN reported that the severity of the allegations could warrant the NCAA charging the Volunteers with multiple Level I and Level II violations, all less than a year after the football program was hit with 18 violations that occurred under ex-coach Jeremy Pruitt. 

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