April 10, 2024; Chicago, IL, USA;  Christian Kline of FedEx participates in a safety wiring demonstration as part of the aerospace maintenance competition at the Aviation Week Network's MRO Americas at McCormick Place. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY NETWORK

FedEx, Memphis enter $25M NIL partnership

FedEx is entering into a five-year, $25 million name, image and likeness commitment that will benefit student-athletes at Memphis, particularly in the Tigers’ football and men’s and women’s basketball programs, as well as additional women’s sports.

The shipping giant, which launched its operations in Memphis in 1973, has annual revenues of $88 billion.

As part of the initiative, Memphis athletes receiving NIL funding will participate in FedEx initiatives via social media and in person around the city. The company supports events that include the FedEx/St. Jude Championships, the Southern Heritage Classic and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, all in Memphis.

“We evaluated the evolving NIL landscape, exploring how we can best deliver positive impact to student-athletes and connect them to meaningful opportunities for both themselves and the community and made the decision to reallocate marketing funds to an NIL platform,” said Brian Philips, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer at FedEx, in a news release. “This gives us an opportunity to invest in bright, young athletes in our great hometown of Memphis, strengthening our connection to the next generation of leaders.”

The program was announced Friday via a social media video that featured both FedEx employees and Memphis athletes.

The first FedEx in-person NIL initiative will be a tailgate event at Memphis’ spring football game, featuring the women’s soccer team.

Athletic director Laird Veatch told 929 ESPN radio in Memphis on Friday that the contribution includes a clause stipulating a 50 percent match and that the university will launch a campaign to raise $2.5 million per year.

Veatch acknowledged the boost the FedEx partnership will give to his department.

“It does elevate us to a highly competitive NIL space, and it’s something that’s sustainable at the same time,” Veatch said. “If you ask many athletic directors around the country, I don’t know that they’d be in a position to say that.”

This is not the first partnership between the company and school. The campus has a degree program for FedEx employees and also boasts the FedEx Institute of Technology. Company CEO Fred Smith agreed to donate $50 million from his personal foundation for renovations for the Tigers’ football stadium.

–Field Level Media

A Virginia Cavaliers football helmet. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia law allows schools to pay NIL deals to athletes

A new law signed Thursday will enable schools in Virginia to pay name, image and likeness deals directly to student-athletes.

The legislation, which takes effect on July 1, is the first of its kind in the nation. It makes it illegal for the NCAA to punish any school in Virginia for compensating athletes with NIL deals.

The law potentially could give schools like Virginia and Virginia Tech — whose officials helped to draft the legislation — a leg up in recruiting, as current NCAA rules prohibit schools from signing NIL deals with their own players. Currently, students receive their NIL pay through third parties.

Critics consider this another step toward the professionalization of college sports, although the law does not allow Virginia schools to pay athletes for their performance in a sport. It does permit the use of university and athletic department funds to pay athletes for appearing in marketing campaigns.

Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said the new law could be a catalyst for change elsewhere.

“If this law gets us closer to a federal or a national solution for college athletics then it will be more than worthwhile,” Williams said, per ESPN. “Until then, we have an obligation to ensure we maintain an elite athletics program at UVA.”

Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock called it “a step in the right direction for the commonwealth of Virginia and the country in my opinion.”

Williams and Babcock declined to share their potential NIL budgets with ESPN. Both also said they were looking into Title IX considerations as far as an equitable distribution of NIL opportunities for male and female student-athletes.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee quarterback Nico Iamaleava (8) warming up for the Citrus Bowl NCAA College football game on Monday, January 1, 2024 in Orlando, Fla.

NCAA’s NIL rules frozen as judge grants injunction

The NCAA cannot punish students or athletics program boosters for name, image and likeness recruiting inducements — at least for now — as a result of a federal judge’s preliminary injunction on Friday afternoon.

The injunction is not a final ruling in the case of Tennessee and Virginia v. NCAA, but the NCAA is in danger of fully losing its ability to enforce its NIL rules, which have been called into question by the attorneys general of both states.

“The NCAA’s prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms student-athletes,” U.S. District Judge Clifton Corker wrote Friday.

Although the related court case is still active, Corker’s injunction means that athletes are free to negotiate NIL-related compensation before they enroll at a school. Though the judge is from the Eastern Tennessee District, his decision applies to the entire country.

The case stems from the NCAA’s decision in January to launch an investigation into the Tennessee football program over alleged recruiting violations. It centered on Nico Iamaleava, a five-star quarterback recruit coming out of high school, signing a deal with Tennessee’s primary NIL collective, Spyre Sports Group, reportedly worth $8 million.

Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman addressed a biting letter to NCAA president Charlie Baker last month, claiming the NCAA is not doing its part to establish clear rules for student-athletes, their families or universities.

“Instead, two and a half years of vague and contradictory NCAA memos, emails and ‘guidance’ about name, image and likeness (NIL) has created extraordinary chaos that student-athletes and institutions are struggling to navigate. In short, the NCAA is failing,” Plowman wrote in part.

The AGs of Tennessee and Virginia filed their antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA the next day.

“Without the give and take of a free market, student-athletes simply have no knowledge of their true NIL value,” Corker wrote Friday. “It is this suppression of negotiating leverage and the consequential lack of knowledge that harms student-athletes.”

Tennessee attorney general Jonathan Skrmetti said in a statement to news outlets Friday that his state would continue pursuing its litigation “to ensure the NCAA’s monopoly cannot continue to harm Tennessee student-athletes.

“The NCAA is not above the law, and the law is on our side.”

NCAA student-athletes have been allowed to profit off their names, images and likenesses since the Supreme Court ruled in their favor in NCAA v. Alston in the summer of 2021.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2024; Orlando, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Nico Iamaleava (8) poses with the MVP Trophy after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NCAA eyeing Tennessee for possible NIL violations

The NCAA is investigating the Tennessee football program for possible NIL violations, Sports Illustrated and CBS reported Tuesday.

According to reports, the case centers around quarterback Nico Iamaleava, a Class of 2023 five-star recruit.

Iamaleava signed a lucrative name, image and likeness deal with Spyre Sports Group, Tennessee’s primary collective.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported last year that Iamaleava’s NIL deal was worth $8 million.

Tennessee has not received a formal notice of allegations from the NCAA, the university told news outlets.

Iamaleava appeared in five games for the Volunteers in the 2023 season. The freshman was named the Citrus Bowl MVP after rushing for three touchdowns and passing for one touchdown in a 35-0 win against Iowa on Jan. 1.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Florida State Seminoles offensive coordinator Alex Atkins speaks to the team during the second half against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA puts FSU football on probation for NIL violation

The NCAA put the Florida State football team on a two-year probation and issued other penalties Thursday for violation of name, image and likeness rules.

The Seminoles also must disassociate from their NIL collective, known as Rising Spear, for a year, and an unnamed booster can’t have contact with the program for three years.

In addition, an unnamed Florida State assistant coach was suspended for three regular-season games and handed a two-year show cause order. According to Yahoo Sports, the coach involved is offensive coordinator Alex Atkins.

The sanctions are the first handed out in relation to the two-plus years since NIL benefits became permissible.

According to the NCAA, the unnamed coach transported a player in the transfer portal, who was considering moving to Florida State, to a spring 2022 meeting with the head of booster who was the chief executive officer of Rising Spear. The booster offered the player around $15,000 per month if he were to enroll at Florida State. The player eventually decided to stay at his previous school.

The assistant coach was only partially truthful in his explanation of the events during an investigation by the school’s enforcement office, the NCAA ruled.

The NCAA’s penalties also include:

–A $5,000 fine in addition to 1 percent of the school’s football budget.

–A 5 percent reduction in football scholarships over the two-year probationary period, which will equate to five scholarships.

–Seven fewer official (paid) visits will be allowed in 2023-24, and six unused official visits from the 2022-23 school year won’t be permitted to roll over.

–Football recruiting communications will be cut by six weeks during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years.

–In-person recruiting days will be limited during the 2023-24 school year.

Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on in the first half against the Weber State Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Utes go truckin’: Every scholarship player receives new truck

Utah football players will driving to practice in style.

On Wednesday, the 85 scholarship players each received a 2024 Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn truck, leased for them for one year, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. It’s being funded largely by Crimson Collective, an organization that puts Utah athletes in touch with name, image and likeness deals.

To receive a truck, the players must agree to promote the Crimson Collective to help it boost NIL opportunities for other student-athletes. They also will be encouraged to do community service and must have a good driving record, The Tribune said.

Yahoo Sports reported that each truck will bear an ad for the streaming app For The Win 360 (FTW360), a co-sponsor of the deal. The sponsors are paying for the leases of the truck, which has an MSRP of $43,970, as well as the insurance, per the report. The leases will roll over as long as a player remains on the team. Anyone who is out of eligibility or transfers will need to turn it in.

“Honestly, I can’t even believe it. It still seems unreal, man,” defensive tackle Junior Tafuna told The Tribune. “But just grateful for the opportunity that we’re able to get one.”

Dignitaries on hand when the players learned they’ would be receiving a truck admitted Utah must jump deeply into the NIL game to recruit the top student-athletes. Utah is moving to the Big 12 in 2024, which traditionally has been a hotbed for high school football.

“I know we can all do more,” athletic director Mark Harlan said. “So my challenge to everyone here and then outside of this room is we all need to lean into NIL. It is here. … So let it not be said that it’s not a huge priority of this athletic department, and this athletic director.”

Kyle Whittingham, who took over the coaching duties at Utah from Urban Meyer at the end of the 2004 season, said NIL availability is recruiting reality.

“This is huge for our players, it’s huge for recruiting going forward. This is going to … give us a leg up on recruiting, which is what it’s all about,” he said.

No. 18 Utah (4-1) will host Cal on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin speaks at the 2023 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days at the Nashville Grand Hyatt on Broadway, Thursday, July 20, 2023.

Lane Kiffin calls NIL ‘poor system getting worse’

If Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin had his way, the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) initiative would be out of college football and more schools would integrate mental health training into their programs.

One of those he has no control over, but he’s become somewhat of a pioneer on the latter front.

Kiffin took the podium at SEC Media Days on Thursday in Nashville and, per usual, had a lot to say.

Regarding NIL, Kiffin said it’s a “poor system that’s getting worse.”

Kiffin is in favor of the transfer portal and also a believer in players getting compensated. But it’s the combination of those that Kiffin says is potent and dangerous.

“You just told donors you could pay players,” Kiffin said.

“Now, we have professional sports. That’s what’s been created now,” Kiffin went on. “There are no caps to what guys can make or payrolls, so when this first came out, I said, whatever programs have the most aggressive boosters with the most players are going to get the best players. Now, we are adding some states that don’t follow the NCAA.

“It’s where we are at.”

When pressed further, Kiffin said he doesn’t have answers — he just knows it’s a problem.

“I’m not complaining because we take advantage, obviously, of free agency,” said Kiffin, likening the portal to free agency in pro sports. “It isn’t good for college football, these overhauls of college rosters. It really isn’t in the best interest of college football.”

Meanwhile Kiffin’s team is believed to be the first program to establish mandatory mental health training for all coaches and players.

“This mental health area is not in that old-school coaching book at all,” Kiffin said. “It was, ‘Hey, shut up and go practice and play,’ especially in the sport of football. Just over the years in going through so many mental health issues with our players and coaches and not having tools or a good system in place — besides just sending them across campus to a mental health specialist.

“I was excited to do (training) with that and excited for the education with that,” he added. “The ability to see things and help our players is really neat. They just go through so much.”

Kiffin also touched on the SEC expanding by two in 2024, when Oklahoma and Texas arrive from the Big 12.

“I actually joked to (Texas coach) Steve Sarkisian yesterday, I don’t know why any coach would want to go to the NFL,” Kiffin said. “We’re in it now. I mean, our schedule is like playing in the NFL … especially adding (Texas and Oklahoma).”

Kiffin, 48, went 8-5 last season and is 23-13 heading into his fourth season with the Rebels. Ole Miss opens the season at home against Mercer on Sept. 2 in Oxford, Miss.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators recruit Jaden Rashada smiles on the sideline during the second half against the Florida Gators at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 12, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs South Carolina Gamecocks

Reports: Florida releases QB Jaden Rashada after NIL deal nixed

Jaden Rashada is free to sign with another team after he was released from his national letter of intent by Florida, multiple media outlets reported Friday.

A four-star quarterback prospect, Rashada asked for his release after a reported $13 million name, image and likeness deal fell through.

Universities in Florida are prohibited by state law from providing or arranging NIL competition, with deals instead made through third parties called collectives.

The Gator Collective terminated its agreement with Rashada on Dec. 7, The Athletic reported, adding the group hoped to sign him to a lesser deal.

Rashada, who is rated as the No. 7 quarterback in the 2023 class by the 247Sports composite, never enrolled in classes this month as planned and asked to be released earlier this week.

National Signing Day is Feb. 1. He signed with the Gators during the early signing period in December.

A California native, Rashada originally committed to Miami before flipping to Florida. He took official visits to those schools, as well as LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, according to 247Sports.

With Rashada out of the picture, the Gators’ quarterback situation is muddled. Anthony Richardson started the 2022 season then declared for the NFL draft, and his backup, Jalen Kitna, was dismissed from the program after being arrested on child pornography charges.

A pair of Big Ten transfers, Graham Mertz from Wisconsin and Jack Miller III from Ohio State, are expected to compete for the starting QB job.

As for Rashada, 247Sports reported that he is scheduled to make an unofficial visit to Arizona State this weekend. His father, Harlen, played defensive back for the Sun Devils in the early 1990s.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Rob Sale hugs Florida Gators recruit Jaden Rashada after the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 12, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs South Carolina Gamecocks

Reports: QB Jaden Rashada asks for Florida release over NIL miss

Quarterback Jaden Rashada wants out of a commitment to Florida due to a failed Name, Image and Likeness agreement worth a reported $13 million.

Rashada originally committed to Miami in June 2022 but changed his plans to sign with Florida four days before Christmas. When an expected NIL deal with Gator Collective wasn’t formalized, per reports, Rashada didn’t enroll at the university last week.

Florida coach Billy Napier visited transfer portal option Walker Howard last week. The four-star Louisiana product left LSU after playing only two games in 2022, but he committed to Ole Miss on Wednesday.

Napier said at the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 3 that he expected Rashada to enroll early to join the team in January.

Rashada said on Nov. 11 before attending the Florida-South Carolina game that he was committing to Napier based on what the Gators were building.

“I have watched this season and Coach Napier and his team are building something very special in The Swamp and I want to be a part of it,” Rashada said via Twitter.

On the heels of 2022 starter Anthony Richardson declaring for the NFL draft and the dismissal of Jalen Kitna due to child pornography charges, the Gators might be left with Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz and Jack Miller III competing this spring. Miller, a redshirt freshman, started for Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Gator Collective had a binding agreement with Rashada that AP reported was worth $13 million over four years before it was canceled.

Rashada was the top recruit in Florida’s incoming class, ranked in the top 50 by most recruiting services — No. 27 at ESPN — and a top-10 quarterback.

Rashada left Gainesville to return to his home near San Francisco after opting not to register at the Jan. 13 spring deadline, his mother told 247 Sports.

–Field Level Media

Dec 3, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) passes the ball in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC QB Drake Maye calls transfer talk ‘rumors’

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye says reports of him entering the transfer portal to chase millions in name, image and likeness deals are “rumors.”

In an interview Thursday with ESPN, the redshirt freshman responded to recent comments from Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi that two schools had offered him $5 million to transfer.

“Those rumors weren’t really reality,” said Maye, whose Tar Heels (9-4) are preparing to face Oregon (9-3) in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Wednesday.

“Pitt’s coach ended up putting that out there. I don’t know what that was about. You have to enter the transfer portal to talk to these schools and hear these offers. For me, I think college football is going to turn into a mess. They’re going to have to do something. There was nothing to me or my family directly offered from any of these other schools. Nothing was said or offered to the Mayes.”

Maye, the ACC Player of the Year, would certainly have his pick of programs if he did elect to leave Chapel Hill. He led the ACC in passing yards (4,115) and touchdowns (35) this season, numbers that rank third and tied for fifth nationally, respectively.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown said Maye has turned down “a whole lot of money” to stay at North Carolina, but Maye said it was never about the dollars.

“It wouldn’t sit right, especially with all my family,” Maye told ESPN.

His father, Mark Maye, is a former UNC quarterback and his brother, Luke, was a star for the Tar Heels’ basketball team.

“Switching it up after everything the Mayes went through wouldn’t represent what the university means to me or how much it means for me to go there,” Drake Maye said. “It’d mess up the mojo and all we’ve built there. That Carolina blue is special. There’s no other color in the world that meaningful.”

–Field Level Media