One of the hottest topics of the college football offseason has been the Tennessee Vols‘ involvement with NIL (name, image, and likeness) collectives.

Spyre Sports, specifically, is a collective designed to help Tennessee athletes with NIL deals. It’s not clear how involved Spyre Sports is in Tennessee’s recruiting efforts, but we know that co-found Hunter Baddour has said on the record that the collective is committed to investing a “substantial amount of resources” into the Vols’ 2023 recruiting class.

“We’re prepared to invest a substantial amount of resources into the 2023 recruiting class,” said Baddour to The Athletic in February. “When you add all that together, it’s well into the seven-figure category.”

Programs or collectives associated with programs aren’t allowed to work out NIL deals with prospective student-athletes, according to NCAA rules.

Vols
Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel greets fans with his daughter, Hannah, left, during the Vol Walk ahead of an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Kns Tennessee Vanderbilt Football

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel was recently asked by The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode about the Vols’ involvement with Spyre Sports.

Heupel didn’t 100 percent deny that UT has worked with Spyre, but he downplayed the Vols’ involvement with the collective.

“We don’t really have any interaction with them,” said Heupel to The Athletic. “We’ve embraced NIL. I just go back to my playing career, those are things I would have liked to have the opportunity to take advantage of. You play for a powerful brand here at UT, but you have your brand too. Keeping your eyes on the most important thing, which is your academic success and how you grow as a football player.”

We don’t know exactly what’s happening behind closed doors when it comes to recruiting right now. There’s a massive gray area when it comes to players getting NIL deals and recruits being promised NIL deals to sign with a university. It’s been said ad nauseam, but it’s accurate — college football recruiting is the wild west at the moment.

The Vols are smart to be ahead of the curve when it comes to NIL collectives. But it also appears that Tennessee is being smart to not put its coaches or support staff in compromising situations with the NCAA. Publicly, at least, Heupel and the Vols are distancing themselves from the work that Spyre is doing, while also supporting NIL efforts in general.

There’s no perfect way to handle this new NIL-driven recruiting world, but Tennessee might be laying the blueprint for the best way to approach these often lucrative deals for players.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK