Judge denies Tennessee’s request for temporary restraining order barring NCAA from enforcing NIL rules

Tennessee’s request for a temporary restraining order barring the NCAA from enforcing its NIL rules was denied by a federal court in east Tennessee on Tuesday.

Judge Clifton L. Corker ruled that the states of Tennessee and Virginia did not demonstrate the “requisite irreparable harm” that would require a temporary restraining order to be issued. The judge did accept the NCAA’s rules do promote competitive balance, but the states’ attorneys general are still likely to win the case, according to comments from Clifton in the order.

“Considering the evidence currently before the Court, Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim under the Sherman Act,” Clifton wrote.

That would ultimately rule that the NCAA’s guidelines around NIL activity are an antitrust violation that artificially limits athletes’ earning ability and further throw college sports’ governance over players monetizing their name, image and likeness (NIL) into disorder.

Last week the states of Tennessee and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in a federal court, challenging the organization’s ban on using name, image and likeness in recruiting. The suit came the day after news broke that the NCAA was investigating the University of Tennessee and Spyre Sports — a collective unofficially associated with Volunteers athletics — and its activity in recruiting, specifically around quarterback Nico Iamaleava.

In a legal filing Saturday, the NCAA responded to the lawsuit by arguing that the states had no case for injunctive relief to temporarily invalidate the NCAA’s rules, in part because Tennessee’s own state law bars NIL inducements in recruiting. The NCAA also argued that the purpose of injunctive relief from a court is to preserve the status quo, and the NCAA’s rules are already the status quo.

Then on Sunday, the attorneys general argued Tennessee’s state law, cited by the NCAA, does bar pay-for-play but allows recruits to have conversations with collectives about NIL opportunities, which is banned by the NCAA. They also argued injunctive relief is necessary because the recruiting signing period opens again on Feb. 7 and their overall case is likely to succeed on the merits.

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(Photo: Ben Queen / USA Today)

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