KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — University of Tennessee athletics is once again facing an NCAA investigation. Multiple national outlets reported Tuesday that the probe centers around possible violations of rules overseeing name, image, and likeness benefits for athletes.
The New York Times reported that part of the investigation involves Spyre Sports Group, an NIL collective that is partnered with WATE, and their deal with star quarterback Nico Iamaleava. A program once thought to be in the clear, UT is now under the microscope again.
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Spyre Sports Group released a statement through attorney Tom Mars describing their agreement with Iamaleava Tuesday evening.
“If they throw more Level 1’s at you now or Level 2’s, you could really be hit as a repeat offender,” said John Pennington, host of the Sports Source talks show. Level 1 violations are the most serious infractions under NCAA rules.
Sources told Sports Illustrated that potential rules violations are “major” in nature. Chancellor Donde Plowman responded to the claims in a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker, calling the allegations “factually untrue and procedurally flawed.”
Pennington said that this and other claims in the letter caught his eye.
“She also referenced the fact that the new NCAA president didn’t take her and her athletic director Danny White up on the opportunity to meet with them,” Pennington said. “Which I thought was interesting.”
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Plowman went on to emphasize just how much Tennessee cooperated with the NCAA during investigations into recruiting violations under former coach Jeremy Pruitt. Tennessee was later fined $8 million after the discovery that more than $60,000 in impermissible benefits was dispersed.
Pennington said that NIL, especially due to its vague nature, is a slippery slope.
“It wasn’t supposed to be pay-for-play,” Pennington said. “It is, but you just can’t say it that way if that makes sense. You can’t set it up that way.”
Pennington added that he would be surprised if any egregious wrongdoing was uncovered.
“I would be shocked if Tennessee and Spyre Sports went that far though,” Pennington said. “That would be almost malpractice in the collective world.”
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With the transfer portal more prominent than ever, UT fans are left pondering the future of the team, a rollercoaster ride that Pennington said they know all too well.
“You can’t ignore it,” Pennington said. “You have to pay attention to it and for that reason, I think for the fanbase, it’s got to be ‘here we go again.’”
You can catch Pennington on The Sports Source on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on WATE.