Tennessee, Virginia AGs suing NCAA over NIL-related recruiting rules with Vols under investigation

The attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the NCAA a day after the University of Tennessee’s chancellor ripped the association for investigating the school for potential recruiting violations related to name, image and likeness compensation rules.

The lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee claims the NCAA is “enforcing rules that unfairly restrict how athletes can commercially use their name, image and likeness at a critical juncture in the recruiting calendar.”

“These anticompetitive restrictions violate the Sherman Act, harm the States and the welfare of their athletes, and should be declared unlawful and enjoined.”

The NCAA already is being challenged in court by a group of state attorneys general challenging the association’s transfer rules, plus it is the defendant in antitrust suits targeting employment status for athletes and billions in television revenue that schools and conferences make off big-time college sports.

It was revealed the NCAA was investigating Tennessee and a booster-funded NIL collective that works with Volunteers athletes, the Vol Club run by Spyre Sports Group.

Tennessee released a scathing letter Chancellor Donde Plowman wrote to Charlie Baker shortly after school officials met with NCAA representatives to discuss the allegations. She said leaders of collegiate sports owe it to students and their families to act in their best interest with clear rules — and that the NCAA is nowhere close to providing that.

“Instead, 2 1/2 years of vague and contradictory NCAA memos, emails and ‘guidance’ about name, image and likeness (NIL) has created extraordinary chaos that student-athletes and institutions are struggling to navigate,” Plowman wrote. “In short, the NCAA is failing.”

The university’s athletic director and the governor of Tennessee had her back Wednesday morning.

Athletic director Danny White shared the state attorney general’s post of the lawsuit on social media within 20 minutes, writing that he appreciated Jonathan Skrmetti standing up for the rights of athletes.

“At Tennessee, we are always going to work to support our student-athletes’ rights and give them all the tools needed to succeed on and off the field,” White tweeted. “This is what strong leadership looks like!”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee also applauded the University of Tennessee for being “nothing but forthcoming with the NCAA.”

“And I thank Chancellor Donde Plowman for taking a stand on behalf of all universities and student athletes,” Lee said in a statement.

Plowman was cheered by Tennessee fans during a pregame ceremony before the fifth-ranked Volunteers lost in men’s basketball to South Carolina.