NCAA pauses investigations into NIL violations amid preliminary injunction


The NCAA has instructed its enforcement staff to pause investigations involving third-party participation in NIL-related activities in the wake of the preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge last week in Tennessee.

The Division I Board of Directors directed NCAA enforcement staff to pause and not begin investigations involving third-party participation in NIL-related activities while the injunction remains in effect, according to a letter sent Friday to NCAA membership by NCAA president Charlie Baker. The Board also noted that there will be no penalty for conduct that occurs while the injunction is in place.

“I agree with this decision, while the progress toward long-term solutions is underway and while we await discussions with the attorneys general,” Baker wrote. “In circumstances that are less than ideal, this at least gives the membership notice of the board’s direction related to enforcement.”

Last Friday, Judge Clifton L. Corker said that a lawsuit filed by attorneys general in Tennessee and Virginia had enough merit to stop college sports’ regulatory body from imposing any restrictions on prospects signing name, image and likeness (NIL) deals before joining programs. The decision was effective immediately for all of Division I, which plunged the NCAA ecosystem into chaos. The decision essentially allows individual donors or booster groups to offer recruits monetary deals to entice them to play at their schools.

Baker said that the three specific NCAA policies can continue to be enforced while the injunction is in effect: 1) The prohibition on pay-for-play/payment for specific athletics performance; 2) The prohibition on direct institutional payment for NIL; and 3) The quid pro quo requirement.

“I realize pausing NIL-related enforcement while these other bylaws are upheld by the injunction will raise significant questions on campuses,” Baker wrote. “This is precisely why a D-I meeting room, not a courtroom, is the best place to change NCAA policy. This is the only practical response to the injunction at this time, and we hope the attorneys will work with us to clarify next steps.”

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The injunction is not a final ruling in the case, but the judge’s decision is all but certain to open the floodgates for more recruits to sign NIL deals nationwide without fear of repercussions. Since NIL laws in various states went into effect in 2021, the NCAA has attempted to defend and enforce its own policies, which aim to restrict the use of NIL deals to induce recruits to sign with a particular program, and the fundamental idea that college athletes should not be paid based on their athletic performance.

“The NCAA’s prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms student-athletes,” Corker wrote in his decision.

NCAA rules currently allow enrolled athletes to sign NIL deals with both individual boosters and collectives, which are groups of boosters who pool resources before signing athletes to contracts. The NCAA does not allow prospective athletes — high-school athletes or transfers — to sign such deals, believing it to be a recruiting inducement.

On Jan. 31, the attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia jointly filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in a U.S. district court, challenging the organization’s ban on using NIL inducements in recruiting. The suit came the day after news broke that the NCAA was investigating the recruiting activities of University of Tennessee and Spyre Sports Group — a collective unofficially associated with Volunteers athletics — specifically around five-star prospect Nico Iamaleava, who ultimately enrolled at Tennessee in January 2023.

(Photo: Isaiah Vazquez / Getty Images)





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