NCAA files response in Tennessee, Virginia NIL lawsuit

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The NCAA responded Saturday night to the lawsuit filed by attorneys general in Tennessee and Virginia challenging the NCAA’s ban on NIL in high school recruiting.

Earlier this week, the NCAA launched an investigation into Tennessee athletes for potential multiple NIL violations. A major part of the response to the NCAA’s move has been this lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday.

In the NCAA’s opposition to the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the body argues that Tennessee and Virginia have not provided any evidence of how the rules impact athletes, create irreparable harm and cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits. The NCAA’s argument also challenges that allowing inducements would throw off the competitive balance of college sports.

“Allowing member institutions and associated groups or individuals to induce prospective student-athletes to attend a particular institution by offering NIL compensation would inevitably lead to a greater concentration of talent in a smaller number of member institutions,” the response states.

Tennessee and Virginia now have until Sunday at 6 p.m. ET to respond. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 13 in the Eastern District of Tennessee. The court could decide on the TRO by Feb. 6, which is the deadline the attorneys general in the two states set. Tom Mars, the attorney for Spyre Sports Group, a marketing agency that runs the Tennessee-driven NIL collective, instructed fans on Saturday to not attend the preliminary injunction hearing.

This comes as the NCAA starts to show its teeth and govern the NIL landscape. The NCAA recently levied sanctions on Florida State and is also investigating Florida for the Jaden Rashada saga – both are cases allegedly involving recruiting infractions involving NIL collectives.

NCAA argues lawsuit ‘invite chaos’

NCAA managing director of academic and membership affairs Geoff Silver submitted a declaration. In his letter included in the response, he outlines that Tennessee officials have played a role in crafting the NCAA’s bylaws.

“For at least the last five years, the Southeastern Conference has had at least one representative on the Division 1 Council, which approves the Division I Manual,” Silver stated. “The current chair of the Division I Council — which recently passed legislation regarding NIL and introduced proposals regarding NIL, discussed further below — is an employee of the University of Florida, also in the Southeastern Conference.”

Another key argument laid out in the response would be the impact the court’s decision could have on the NCAA and college sports.

“There is no reason to upend this process, invite chaos on a moment’s notice, and transform college sports into an environment where players and schools match up based primarily on the dollars that can change hands,” the courtroom filing reads. “Requests for radical change require sound deliberation.”

What’s at stake with Tennessee, NCAA lawsuit?

At its root, it’s an antitrust lawsuit arguing the body does not have the right to put restrictions on compensating college athletes.

Tennessee’s fight against the NCAA is not limited to the courtroom. Many prominent Tennessee politicians have vocally supported the Vols. Tennessee athletic director Danny White released a blistering statement on Thursday.

“The NCAA generally does not comment on infractions cases because there is a rule against it; however, that has not stopped them in the past from leaking information to the media as they did this week about us,” his letter, released on social media, stated.

“I refuse to allow the NCAA to irrationally use Tennessee as an example of their own agenda.”