The Tennessee Vols are a program on the rise and other programs in the SEC — including Alabama and Georiga — are taking notice.
Tennessee is having a lot of recruiting success this offseason. The Vols have already landed commitments from five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava and four-star edge rusher Caleb Herring.
Some of Tennessee’s recruiting success has been attributed to NIL deals. It hasn’t been confirmed, but there are rumblings that Iamaleava received an $8 million NIL deal in conjunction with his commitment to the Volunteers.
If those rumblings are true, it means that Tennessee is using new NIL rules to its advantage, which could possibly upset the balance of power in the SEC.
And that isn’t sitting well with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.
According to Front Office Sports, Saban and Smart are “calling for oversight on the relationships between collectives, recruits, and schools”.
As a result, the NCAA is going to look into regulating how NIL collectives operate.
The NCAA is reportedly seeking to regulate NIL collectives — especially ones headed by boosters.— Front Office Sports (@FOS) May 5, 2022
Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart are among those calling for oversight on the relationships between collectives, recruits, and schools.@AbigailGentrup has more ⤵️
This has to be in response to Tennessee’s alleged $8 million deal with Iamaleava.
But here’s the thing — college football players have been getting paid to sign with programs for decades. What’s happening now just puts it in the public eye, which is a good thing because there’s accountability.
Saban didn’t seem to have a problem with NIL deals a year ago when he was bragging about Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young’s earnings.
The moment that NIL deals started benefiting Tennessee (and credit to UT for getting ahead of the game when it comes to NIL deals), Saban and Smart basically said “nope, we don’t like that at all”.
I don’t think this is a situation where Saban and Smart think the Vols are going to suddenly turn into a perennial national championship contender. Maybe that happens, maybe it doesn’t. It’ll be a while before we know how the Josh Heupel era will play out. I think Saban and Smart have pretty much been able to get who they wanted in recruiting and now Tennessee is throwing a wrench into their plans.
Iamaleava is a player who would normally end up at Alabama or Georgia. The Vols, however, decided to play with the big boys and instantly proved they deserve a seat at the five-star recruiting table.
NIL deals aren’t going away. And there’s really no way to prevent programs from using NIL deals to their advantage. Even if some regulations are put in place by the NCAA, there will still be ways to circumvent those regulations (just like coaches and boosters have been getting around regulations for years).
Alabama and Georgia are just going to have to learn to live in a world where Tennessee routinely lands elite five-star recruits.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports