Tennessee under NCAA investigation for NIL violations: Source



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By Bruce Feldman, Joe Rexrode and David Ubben

Tennessee is under NCAA investigation for alleged name, image and likeness violations in multiple sports, a school source confirmed. Sports Illustrated first reported the news about the NCAA investigation for what SI described as “major” violations.

Tennessee has not yet received a Notice of Allegations, a source familiar with the situation said, adding, “Tennessee feels confident that UT has followed the NCAA’s guidelines related to NIL.”

The new investigation comes on the heels of a previous NCAA probe into Tennessee that concluded last July. In that investigation, the NCAA determined that over the course of three seasons, the Tennessee football program committed 18 Level I violations encompassing more than 200 individual infractions. As part of the NCAA sanctions, Tennessee was hit with a fine of $8 million that was deemed equivalent to the financial impact the school would have faced if it missed the postseason during the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

NIL-related investigations have been sparse and presumed ineffective, but a 2023 bylaw that allows NCAA investigators to use circumstantial evidence — and not just direct sourcing — in investigations gives them more power to pursue such cases. One question for Tennessee is whether last year’s outcome from the Jeremy Pruitt years — in which a shift in philosophy was cited for no postseason ban — makes UT athletics more vulnerable this time around.

The NCAA has allowed players to monetize their name, image and likeness since July 1, 2021, but such benefits are not permitted to be used as recruiting inducements. The rules and laws around the market are so new and change so often that their enforcement has not been widely feared, but the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced earlier this month that it levied penalties against Florida State’s football program, an assistant coach, one of its collectives and a booster for NIL-related recruiting violations.

Florida is also under investigation for violations in the NIL space; the NCAA is investigating Florida regarding the 2022 recruitment of quarterback Jaden Rashada, a person who was interviewed, as well as a second person who was briefed on the investigation, confirmed. But the lack of precedent and enforcement surrounding these rules, as well as a lack of detail surrounding the allegations, make it impossible to project how these cases might ultimately play out.

Considering Tennessee’s status as a recent offender, the Vols may need to tread lightly in this case, but that doesn’t preclude a full-throated legal defense challenging any rules the NCAA is attempting to enforce.

This story will be updated.

(Photo: Donald Page / Getty Images)





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