A Tennessee Volunteers helmet in 2022. Oct 8, 2022; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Tennessee Volunteers helmet against the LSU Tigers during the second half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The current state of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals in the NCAA has often been called the “Wild West” by critics, including Charles Barkley. But a federal court decision Friday is actually going to make it far less regulated. That decision, in the Eastern Tennessee District, granted to plaintiffs (including the attorneys general in Tennessee and Virginia) an injunction against NCAA rules on NIL collectives in recruiting. Here’s more on that from Adam Sparks of The Knoxville News-Sentinel:

The injunction was granted in the Eastern Tennessee District by Judge Clifton Corker, who found that NIL rules caused irreparable damage to athletes.

“In an apparent attempt to prohibit those (recruiting) inducements, the NCAA issued guidance classifying NIL collectives as ‘boosters’ to prevent them from negotiating with student-athletes during the recruiting and transfer processes,” Corker said in his decision. “The NCAA’s prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms student-athletes.

“Accordingly, (plaintiffs) are entitled to a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the NCAA’s ‘NIL-recruiting ban.'”

That piece from Sparks illustrates how the injunction says “the NCAA’s rules banning NIL recruiting inducements are frozen for more than 523,000 athletes at 1,088 institutions.” So this is about much more than just the University of Tennessee (a key plaintiff, and one facing a NCAA investigation). This is just a preliminary injunction, so it’s not the ultimate outcome here, but it does have NCAA-wide impacts.

The overall takeaway here is that the NCAA’s current efforts to try and enforce national restrictions on “NIL recruiting” will face many challenges, including this court one. Of course, they could still get relief through a new law from the federal legislative branch (and they’ve been working with many of the proposed ones there). And that would impact judicial-branch decisions like this.

But the NCAA’s overall response to various NIL matters has seen a lot of criticism, including Charles Barkley’s “boneheads.” And now they’re facing a significant judicial loss, on a front which many had projected would go the other way. We’ll see what’s ahead with them and NIL, but this particular ruling certainly hampers their current efforts to enforce prohibitions against NIL recruiting inducements.

[The Knoxville News-Sentinel]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.