Tom Mars, a lawyer for Tennessee-based NIL collective Spyre Sports Group released a statement Tuesday night, defending the company’s relationship with former highly-touted recruit and current Tennessee quarterback Nico Iamaleava. The group is at the center or an NCAA investigation into potential NIL violations committed by Tennessee, sources confirmed to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.
Mars’ statement denies any wrongdoing from the company, claiming it was not acting on behalf of the university and its deal with Iamaleava didn’t require the quarterback to attend Tennessee.
“In early 2022, independent of the University of Tennessee or anyone associated with its athletics program, Spyre Sports entered into a mutually beneficial contractual relationship with Nico lamaleava that involved a limited assignment of his NIL rights, no matter which school he chose to attend,” Mars’ statement read. “Such ‘representation agreements’ have become increasingly common. The parties agreed that their contractual rights and obligations would be governed by California law, which freely allows prospective college athletes to enter into such agreements.
“In short, the agreement was fully consistent with then existing NCAA NIL ‘guidelines’ and had nothing to do with recruiting Nico to the University of Tennessee or any other school. Spyre Sports and the Vol Club currently represent more than 100 college athletes and are proud to have helped them maximize the value of their legally protected name, image, and likeness.”
The NCAA enforcement staff could charge the football program with multiple Level I and Level II violations, ESPN reported earlier in the day. Tennessee has not received a formal notice of allegations from the NCAA, but it is common in some cases for the governing body to send a draft notice of preliminary violations being investigated.
Already having been placed on probation as a result of the findings from that case, Tennessee could be labeled a “repeat violator” in the NCAA’s eyes, which would mean enhanced penalties. However, the NCAA only applies the repeat violator label if a school lacks “exemplary cooperation.”
Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman was quick to denounce the allegations in a letter to the NCAA obtained by ESPN.
“The NCAA’s allegations are factually untrue and procedurally flawed,” Plowman wrote. “Moreover, it is intellectually dishonest for the NCAA enforcement staff to pursue infractions cases as if student-athletes have no NIL rights and as if institutions all have been functioning post-Alston with a clear and unchanging set of rules and willfully violating them.”