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Vols AD refuses to let NCAA 'irrationally' make example of Tennessee over NIL

Tennessee athletic director Danny White said he is refusing to let the NCAA “irrationally” make an example of the Volunteers over name, image and likeness compensation.

White also accused the NCAA of leaking information to the media earlier this week about Tennessee in his statement on social media on Thursday. He added the NCAA generally doesn't comment on infractions cases because of the rule prohibiting the group from doing that.

“Their actions made this ill-conceived investigation public and forced us to defend ourselves,” White said. “It is clear that the NCAA staff does not recognize what is happening at the campus level all over the country in the NIL space."

Chancellor Donde Plowman revealed in a scathing letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker released Tuesday that the NCAA was investigating Tennessee and The Vol Club, an NIL collective run by Spyre Sports Group. Tennessee’s recruitment of five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava from California and his NIL contract with Spyre is among the deals receiving scrutiny from the NCAA.

The NCAA didn't immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

White said NCAA investigators had reviewed “thousands” of phone records between Tennessee coaches and personnel without finding a “single NIL violation.”

He accused the NCAA of moving “the goalpost to fit a predetermined outcome” by saying that “nebulous, contradictory NIL guidelines (written by the NCAA, not the membership) don’t matter and applying the old booster bylaws to collectives.”

White argued that would mean all major programs in college athletics would have significant violations. He accused NCAA leadership of failing to address NIL rules in 2021 and that the NCAA should be working on solutions with athletes, recruits, coaches and administrators.

“This is obviously silly and not productive, as is blaming the membership whenever they are challenged,” White said.

Attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia followed Plowman's letter by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday challenging its ban on the use of NIL compensation in the recruitment of college athletes, and in response to the association’s investigation of Tennessee.

Tennessee offensive lineman Jackson Lampley from Nashville, Tennessee, called NCAA rules forcing recruits to choose a college without knowing all NIL options concerning in a declaration filed Thursday with the lawsuit.

NIL opportunities are among the first questions he gets when talking with visiting recruits.

“I believe it is essential that recruits have direct and open conversations with a third party like a collective and commit to a school knowing the full scope of NIL opportunities available to them in college,” Lampley said.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report. ___

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