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Tennessee AG fires back at NCAA day after filing

In reply to the NCAA claiming college sports would be thrown into “disarray” if rules banning name, image and likeness compensation being used as recruiting inducements were lifted by court order, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said in a Sunday filing the association is defending “a world that doesn’t exist.”

The attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia are seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction as part of their federal lawsuit arguing the group’s NIL rules violate antitrust law.

The NCAA asked a judge to deny both motions in its 25-page response filed Saturday with the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Tennessee. A judge on Feb. 13 will hear a request by the attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia for a preliminary injunction.

“The NCAA waits until page 16 — two-thirds of the way into its brief — before it defends the NIL-recruiting ban on the merits. And even then, the NCAA defends a world that doesn’t exist,” Sunday’s reply said. “It says it must ‘prohibi(t) NIL compensation’ to protect amateurism, competition, and athletes.'”

The AGs said student-athletes will suffer irreparable harm if the TRO is not granted by Tuesday because college football’s traditional signing period of high school football players begins Wednesday.

“And it’s not Plaintiffs’ fault that the NCAA has decided to regulate NIL and recruitment through a byzantine set of overlapping rules of guidance. To the extent there’s confusion the NCAA thinks give its power to enforce the NIL-recruiting ban, that problem is one of the NCAA’s own creation,” Sunday’s reply said.

The lawsuit was filed last week, the day after it was revealed the NCAA is investigating the University of Tennessee for potential recruiting violations related to NIL compensation.

“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 NCAA wrote.

“Requests for radical change require sound deliberation.”

Chancellor Donde Plowman revealed in a scathing letter to NCAA president Charlie Baker released Tuesday that the NCAA was investigating Tennessee and The Vol Club, an NIL collective run by Spyre Sports Group. Tennessee’s recruitment of five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava from California and his NIL contract with Spyre is among the deals receiving scrutiny from the NCAA.

The NCAA argues granting the motions would result in “recruiting inducements tantamount to pay for athletic performance” and spoil the recruiting process of athletes choosing schools that fit them best while exposing them to “bad actors” signing people to “coercive contracts.”

“They do not actually seek here to preserve the status quo, but instead to fundamentally alter the landscape of college athletics by mandating the creation of an NIL market for student-athlete recruits that does not presently exist,” the NCAA said in its motion.

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