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Federal Judge Throws Wrench Into NCAA’s NIL Plans

Posted by on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 in Blog Posts.

By Charlie Visconti

In January 2024, Virginia and Tennessee’s attorneys general filed an antitrust suit against the NCAA alleging that the NCAA’s name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) guidelines introduced in 2021 violated federal antitrust laws.[1] Specifically, the suit alleges that the NCAA guidelines improperly prevents college athletes from earning their full potential from their name, image, and likeness.[2] The NCAA’s guidelines were released following the Supreme Court case Alston v. NCAA, which kicked off the NIL era in college sports, allowing athletes to profit, with restrictions, off their name, image, and likeness.[3] At issue specifically is the NCAA’s prohibition on athletes negotiating NIL deals during their recruitment or when they are in the NCAA’s transfer portal.[4]

In February 2024, District Judge Clifton Corker in Tennessee granted a preliminary injunction preventing the NCAA from punishing any athletes or boosters for negotiating NIL deals during recruitment or while in the portal.[5] While not a final decision, the granting of the injunction portends a bleak future for the NCAA’s guidelines, as Judge Corker stated, “The NCAA’s prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms student-athletes.”[6]

The NCAA itself seems to recognize this reality. The NCAA has suspended investigations into alleged NIL violations by boosters and NIL collectives following the injunction.[7] Further, NCAA president Charlie Baker himself stated, “I agree with the decision, while the progress toward long-term solutions is underway and while we await discussions with the attorneys general.”[8] But even before the Tennessee and Virginia lawsuit, the NCAA was having extreme difficulty enforcing its own NIL rules.[9] The impromptu adoption of its guidelines following Alston led to a wild west NIL environment where laws varied from state to state.[10] As a result, the NCAA had trouble finding any consistent enforcement of NIL rules.[11] The NCAA’s failures have even prompted the Big Ten and the SEC, the two largest, most powerful conferences in college sports, to form a joint advisory committee to focus on tackling some of the biggest problems facing college sports, including NIL rules.[12]

The NCAA has searched for other avenues to stem the tide of NIL after finding no support in the courts in recent years. Specifically, the NCAA has lobbied aggressively to Congress for a limited antitrust exemption to allow it to enforce more restrictive NIL laws, but its pleas have fallen on deaf ears.[13] All of this points to new reality in college sports that the NCAA, college athletic departments, and fans alike must get used accustomed to.

Charlie Visconti is a current 2L at Vanderbilt Law School. He previously attended the University of Alabama where he majored in finance and accounting.

[1] Dennis Dodd, State of Tennessee sues NCAA over legality of NIL guidelines amid investigation into Volunteers, CBS Sports (Feb. 1, 2024),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Dan Murphy, NCAA can’t enforce NIL rules after judge grants injunction, ESPN (Feb. 23, 2024),

[5] Id.


[7] NCAA pausing NIL investigations in wake of Tennessee case, ESPN (Mar. 1, 2024),

[8] Id.

[9] Ralph D. Russo, Lack of detailed NIL rules challenges NCAA enforcement, AP News (Jan. 29, 2022),

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] ESPN, supra note 7.

[13] ESPN, supra note 7.

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