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The University of Tennessee and the University of Florida Under Investigation for Potential NIL Violations

February 2, 2024

Update: On February 23, 2024, a federal judge in Tennessee granted the AGs preliminary injunction which prohibits the NCAA from enforcing its policies related to the NIL. The NCAA is expected to appeal this decision.

It is important to note that although the NCAA cannot currently enforce its NIL regulations, member institutions and relevant NIL state laws still apply.

The NCAA recently announced that both the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida are under investigation for alleged name, image, and likeness (NIL) violations.

The University of Tennessee is under investigation for alleged violations related to impermissible NIL conduct. It is widely reported that the investigation involves the university’s main NIL collective and involves both the football program, as well as athletes in other sports. The investigation allegedly centers around the NIL collective’s use of a private jet to transport a potential recruit, which is in violation of the NCAA’s NIL regulations. The NCAA has yet to issue a formal notice of allegations against the university, which would lay out the findings of the NCAA’s investigative inquiry. It is worth noting that this new investigation comes less than a year after Tennessee was charged with 18 Level 1 violations and fined roughly $8 million. Given these recent violations, Tennessee’s current investigation could result in the university being charged as a “repeat violator,” which could increase the penalties the NCAA may impose.

Although announced in January 2024, the University of Florida received a Notice of Inquiry from the NCAA in June 2023, which informed the university that they were under investigation. Although key provisions of the Notice are redacted, it is widely reported that the Notice pertains to alleged NIL violations. Specifically, it is alleged that the University of Florida’s football team offered a recruit a NIL contract worth over $13 million to sign with the 2023 recruiting class. Although the contract was ultimately rescinded, it is reported that the NCAA’s investigation involves this impermissible NIL conduct.

These new investigations come less than a month after the NCAA imposed various level II sanctions on Florida State University for NIL violations related to impermissible activity with the program’s collective. The NCAA appears to be focusing its NIL enforcement on impermissible recruiting “inducements” which violate current NCAA NIL regulations. Accordingly, interested parties should contact Varnum’s NIL Practice Team to ensure they are in compliance with applicable NCAA, state, and institutional regulations.

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