NIL money can make Tennessee football elite again – Saturday Down South

Tennessee’s best chance to returning to national prominence is cold, hard cash.
There’s one sentence I would have never dreamed of writing just a couple of years ago. Were players at every school getting paid before the term “Name, Image and Likeness” became so commonplace? Certainly. However, funding players used to be the most severe NCAA violation. Paying players or lining up others to pay players was a good way to lose a player’s eligibility and cost a coach his career. Now, it’s as common as a Pilot convenient store. That’s good for Tennessee.
First and foremost, no one is suggesting that one payment here or there will change the Vols this season or next. That could happen, but it would be more about good fortune than hard work or astute planning. Tennessee could land a program-changing type of player with some properly aligned funding. Think of what Michael Vick did for Virginia Tech as an example. Tech is relevant, although that is waning, because of one player who elevated the Hokies’ entire program.
Peyton Manning certainly changed the trajectory of Tennessee’s football program, although one could argue that landing Heath Shuler was what made Knoxville a destination stop for top-tier quarterbacks. Nevertheless, if you speak to many players and coaches on Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team, they’ll tell you that Manning’s influence began the improbable run to a national title while he was busy beginning his NFL career.

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Banking on one player to change the trajectory of a program is a huge gamble and, in the case of Vick, can be short term. That’s where NIL money can come into play for Tennessee. NIL revenue isn’t going to overcome a program’s faults entirely. Players can still go to Alabama and get paid and will be more likely to compete for a national championship than at Tennessee. That is also the case for Georgia after the Bulldogs proved they were championship-worthy last season. Both are at the level that Tennessee is striving for. Both have strong fan bases and businesses that can spend with the best of them.
Tennessee is usually in the middle of the pack or slightly higher when it comes to generating revenue within its athletic department. That’s proof that the Vols have strong support among business leaders that like to don orange on a blustery fall afternoon. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Tennessee could be much closer to the top of mountain in the SEC very soon if it continues its positive trajectory on the field. More wins mean more donations. Now, more wins can also mean more NIL money.
It’s important to remember that schools don’t provide the money. Businesses do. That gives Tennessee a bit of a leg up on most of its competition. Knoxville is one of the biggest markets in the SEC. That means Tennessee has a large corporate base of businesses that could make things much easier for the Vols in recruiting. So far, large corporate deals have been limited as CEO’s sit back to see how this whole thing plays out. Primarily, smaller businesses have jumped on the NIL trend. That could change. If so, it gives Tennessee a distinct advantage over other programs. Tennessee can also benefit from the exploding market in Nashville, which is much more focused on the Vols than Vanderbilt.
Tennessee’s recruiting pitch was different when the Vols were at a championship level in the 1990s. The Vols sold the fact that they were on television more often than most of their rivals and had massive facilities that dwarfed most of their competition. That was a pretty strong pitch. Things have changed. Now, everyone has excellent facilities and Southwest Missouri State’s football games are all televised nationally in some shape, form or fashion. Whether it’s ESPN or streaming, players’ families can see their sons play at any school in the nation. That recruiting pitch is incredibly dated.
I spoke to some people who were a bit taken aback that Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker could make $1 million before his college career comes to an end. I wasn’t. That’s just the beginning. When do offensive linemen, tight ends or safeties start getting mega-deals worth six figures? Perhaps very soon. If so, Knoxville and UT are in prime position.

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Tennessee may not need NIL money to become elite again, but it can’t hurt. Tennessee coach Josh Heupel could have a David Cutcliffe-like effect on the Vols. Elite quarterbacks will want to play for Heupel because he’s a special offensive coach. He can design plays and call them as well as any of his peers, at least from what I’ve seen to this point. Still, gobbling up cash is ultimately better than gobbling up offensive yards for many individuals. As long as players are in line and not cash-driven divas, the two can align just fine.
Heupel still has to prove himself as the leader of an entire program and not just a great offensive coach. The excitement around Tennessee’s program is understandable and seems well-grounded for now. However, Tennessee’s fan base knows what that excitement is like and how quickly it can dissipate. Kiffin. Dooley. Butch. Pruitt. There was excitement around all of those coaches before things went awry for various reasons.
Heupel could be Tennessee’s coach in 5 years or not. He could succeed at such a high level at Tennessee and return to Oklahoma, where he played quarterback for the Sooners, or decide to coach in the NFL one day. He could flounder and fans’ tastes could turn sour. Those scenarios aren’t likely right now, but it’s always a possibility. In the case of NIL money, Heupel’s presence isn’t in dire need. The cold, hard cash will still be there begging to be spent as long as the Vols are successful. Pandora’s Box has been opened.
That should give the Vols hope to be elite again.
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I get that Hooker is a Tennessee guy, that’s fine. But you replace Tennessee with most P5 names and write the same article. I wonder if the folks in love with NIL realize that whatever you can do, most everyone else can do, so no things may not change that much in recruiting or the portal ops. Many have deep pocket supporters. Oregon is funded by Nike and their massive profits from cheap/forced labor in Asia. We saw a little of it too when USC decided the best way to get back to relevance was to buy the core of another successful program and move them. Even a top program like Oklahoma had their core bought and moved. Just sayin that everyone will be buying. A&M proved that and everyone else will follow.
thought the same thing regarding the plug and play approach with team A, B, C….
a&m already has the head-start on everyone in the nil dept, so whether it’s tn or team A, B or C, they’ll be playing catch-up…at least in the dept of taking the nil route and needing/wanting to utilize a good product on the field to further carry that approach in getting private funding/deals. adding to that, a&m has a legit head start as they also had a really good base of players before this last recruiting year and have pretty good coaches. tn and others can go that route, but it’s not as easy to be 2nd, 3rd or 4th in that approach as the author suggests that it is.
on another note, knoxville is a nice city, but as far as local money goes, it pales in comparison to what’s in fayetteville with the big 3 there…or even in their own state with what’s in nashville. outside of the music industry, which could really tilt the scale should any of the businesses or performers get invested, there’s other big businesses like asurion, brookdale, firestone, nissan, vanguard, etc…heck even amazon has a hub there.
Think like an 18 Male. I’m playing Big Time College Football, I’m making major bucks in the Entertainment Business and my girl friend is a twenty something named Bambi, Shasta or something else along those lines.
Living the dream….
Every American company uses “cheap forced Asian labor”, dumbass. Where do you think trump’s ties are made?
Tiger TD = idiot
“Where do you think trump’s ties are made?”
In your trailer?
I should have read your comment before making mine. I pretty much said the same thing. There are few to no schools that cannot raise money for this. This really could explode. Just imagine if Alabama and Auburn could get Austal Ship building and Airbus involved, along with many other companies, with their corporate dollars? What if states gave tax incentives to corporations, that gave to NIL? Where does it stop? Don’t forget that many of these players that are brought in with money are going to be complete failures and the money wasted. Is that going to put some of the brakes on this until a player proves themselves. This subject has many trails it can take, and we know few of them
The advantage will go to the Schools that have connections in the Entertainment Business because they can pay whatever the want to an individual in a movie, TV Show, etc.,etc…
Corporations outside of the Entertainment Business cannot just give a kid any amount of money whereas EB’s can.
Nobody knows where this trail is going to go. Massive Corruption is the one I would pick.
Mildly disagree. One, you cannot replace Hooker with any p5 QB and write this article. Not many have Hooker’s running ability (including Bryce Young) and his passing ability. TN has deep pockets despite the issues that have plagued TN. AD White has provided many money making ideas and them into action. Baseball is starting to make more money, bball as well as many other sports and marketing ideas. NIL gets you some great players but we can see why Saban behind the scenes was not in favor of it. You can potentially buy your way into beating the elite teams. Bama included. A win against an elite team and you can get the #1 recruiting class one team did those two things. A&M. Now that does not mean they will be an elite SEC but what it does do is provide a means of access to players over the elite teams were getting before. TN has the means to do this without NIL money and with it, should vastly increase their blue chip player numbers. This all means many more games will start to be more competitive. I don’t agree though CJH will ever leave TN for OU, not after what they did and why would CJH want to coach an SEC west OU team where winning that division is a heck of a lot harder?
I thought the entire argument against NIL was that cash is going to ruin the sport, because teams will just be able to “buy” players.
Why not buy them Georgia has been doing it for years. Don’t believe it? Just looked at the vehicles sitting around the football facilities and watch the players come out. There’s a dealership on highway 29 by the train track provides a lot of these cars/trucks/SUV’s.
2008, you lying bench.
Another butt hurt Fla fan upset that the Gators are the new Kentucky. The manta of losers: if we can’t keep up you must be cheating. So hilarious
Mantra
You do realize that not all players come from poor inner city families, right? You can say the same about All the tattoos that players, even the poor ones, have now. Those are not cheap, so who pays for those. With UFs history, they have no standing to accuse anyone of cheating, they and AU have quite the record of it.
Source?
Agree, both Bama and UGA have been. This is why the SEC media does not want follow up interviews with Rush Prospt and others. But speculation that maybe be, we know Bana and UGA now are NIL buying players but the cat is out of the bad and many other SEC schools have money to spend as well. “Get the money here and unlike Bama and UGA you will play much sooner”. That is very hard to pass up. We might one day have a situation where the best marketing team wins the most titles. Either way, this isn’t good news for teams like UGA and Bama. A&M’s recruiting class is just more proof of this.
Still delusional gwhite. The only school to take a serious jump was aTm. Unfortunately the facts are the opposite of the reality you are trying to draw.
The University President’s were bought out by NBC,CBS, Fox & Disney.
Things clearly are looking up for the Football program and pretty much all of the other sports programs right now at UT. I think 8 to 9 regular season wins is doable, which will continue the momentum to build. Really the most key factor to the Football program having success is continuity. Money and fan base will always be there for UT. Imagine if we finally start winning consistently. The Basketball program showed a winner can get you a top 4 attendance in the nation, and just last week UT set an attendance record in Baseball on a cold blustery weekend in February.
Braves, I think a ten win is squarely on the table and a 8 win would be a bit of a disappointment for CJH and fans. But the media would say it’s improvement to be respected. Not with schedule imo would it be. I think AD White is doing an amazing job of modernizing TN sports and it’s fanbase. So far he’s hit a homerun with hiring CJH. He also is keep our great coaches happy to remain at TN.
Why stop at 10? Seriously, who can beat Tennessee with Hooker having a full year with CJH?
Mr. Hooker seems to be the Captain Obvious of college football. He must be paid “by the word” to write such insightful stuff. Glad2besec is absolutely correct. But, just wait until NIL Ver. 2 unfolds. That is when the Vol boosters have paid big bucks for THE guy who will take them to a championship only to see THE guy in a different uniform the next season. NIL isn’t done yet. Dammit.
Oddly agree.lol. But Hooker will be responsible for making TN a lot of money this season. NIL also puts a lot more pressure on making sure you get the production out of those QB’s. Bama took a huge risk with making Young a Millionaire before he ever threw his first pass last season. There is risk here involved and I think offensive minded guru’s will be in the highest demand from now on. Gone will be the need for elite D coaches over offensive ones and Monken at UGA is not a doable future thing. Every QB must be NFL material and Bennett ain’t that.
Yikes! If this article has any merit this tells you how pitiful TENN is, it’s a bad look. If NIL does have this kind of impact TX will win every national championship moving forward.
Bcreek you aren’t making much sense. What about this article says how pitiful UT is. Occasionally hooker is tight and he is here but as others say you can substitute a lot of teams names and write the same story.. The NIL stinks and is out of control. Teams/schools have no choice but to embrace it to the fullest extent or face falling way behind.
Not criticizing. If it takes $$$$ to buy a competitive team TENN won’t be it. TX is the richest school in America followed by Norte Dame. The best players will go where the $$$$ is. That’s just they way it will be.
Actually, Harvard is.
I think you may have missed part of the point of the article which is not about how rich the school is but how much money could come from businesses inside said state. I’m sure boosters are a part of that cash flow source, but if major corporations and other big businesses inside each state decide to start writing checks that will change NIL a lot more than just “how much a certain school and it’s boosters have”
No Gamecock fan has room to criticize any other SEC school except Vandy. EVERY other school has far better and more richer history than SC.
Dumb post of the day goes to Bcreek lol. TN has deep pockets and can and will out-generate TX. You also need the offensive coaching. TX does not have this as much as I like the HC and respect him. This article is reminding you of what TN can and is doing to be elite again.
TN has the Entertainment Business which allows for “Flexibility” in the way folks are paid and they do have money.
Texas owns the Permian Basin which makes them the Saudi Arabia of College Football.
Think A&M spent money? We have not seen anything yet.
You are correct. Texas, USC, UCLA, Oregon are vast oceans of money that can and will pay whatever they want.
The other Big time schools like Bama, Georgia, UF, OSU, UM, A&M, LSU will pay but their donors have different corporate structures which restrict they way they pay individuals or employee’s.
Th
LOL, sure, Dave. Sure.
Man, you are wrong about EVERYTHING, but this time… this time… you’re still wrong.
HAHAHAHAHAHA!
So the moral of this article is…Become Texas A & M and buy the best, most elite players. The NCAA surely muddled the waters of college football by their lack of any rules concerning NIL. It reminds me of an old Burger King commercial that said…No Rules, Just Right ! That’s how NIL currently is.
Schools need to adapt or move to the FCS division
I can understand how an Alabaman would fear the NIL. The state is the poorest in the nation except for Mississippi. The states of Texas, Florida, GA and even Tennessee have a much deeper pool of wealthy individuals than does Alabama.
nothing personal Afan. Your posts make it seem like you’re a cool guy
You need to dig a little deeper. Alabama has a low per capita income based on how much each individual brings in. But if you look at how much each EMPLOYED person makes it is pretty good. With good paying jobs like UAB, Austal ship building, Airbus, and the tech companies that supply the space and military programs, banking and many others, there is money to be had if this goes a certain way.
I don’t think you’re seeing the big picture. TX can buy UA 10x over. If NIL takes over, which I hope it doesn’t, TX will be in power forever.
This is not necessarily the case. Yes, ut is a rich school and has rich alumni. Though there are a lot of P-5 schools in Texas for all the money from industry and business to be divided among, Alabama has 2. Also, my comment was to The University of Alabama’s alleged poverty based on per capita income figures. Like murder rates, per capita figures can say what you want them to say.
The state as a whole might be poorer than most but to think that it doesn’t have its share of millionaires or multi-million businesses you would be wrong. I had 5-7 millionaires sitting at my bar on a regular business. Most were UA/UA fans who already gave tons to the programs. Auburn has Tim Cook as an alumni who is only worth 2 billion as the Apple CEO. There is plenty of NIL money in Alabama.
Be nice to visit your bar. Is it in Tuscaloosa?
You make a good point. Even if the deep pockets aren’t there the overall depth of fandom there means NIL money will still be there. More businesses in the mid range of wealth in Alabama will likely contribute at a pct higher than other places.
JTF: My bar is in Huntsville. NASA and defense contracting has made quite a few millionaires in this area.
Probably never get to Huntsville. Bet you have a good one.
AL and AU are not “poor” universities. There are several states ahead of Alabama. North Carolina, Arkansas etc. This is by “median household income”.
I’m not supposed to agree with you but I do..lol
“I can understand how an Alabaman would fear the NIL. The state is the poorest in the nation except for Mississippi.”
I see reading ain’t yer thing. There are more states ahead of Alabama. I might also add that GA is in the top 15 in that category.
It’s also how it’s going to stay.
“Become Texas A & M and buy the best, most elite players.”
And have nothing to show for it. The most they’ve done since joining the SEC is finishing 2nd in the west. Oh, they also picked up a Heisman….where is he now?
This could become like the NFL minus the salary cap and can apply to any school with enough booster support. I’m not in favor, but will just watch and let it play out.
The biggest NIL conundrum: does the chase for NIL money cause kids’ focus to blur? The two biggest NIL targets in 2021 were Spencer Rattler and Bryce Young. One stayed on-task and won the Heisman. The other cratered far below his perceived ceiling and transferred. Did the NIL affect Rattler? We’ll never know, but more examples of a similar nature could make NIL financiers think. The point for most is not to make some kid quasi-rich – it’s to have a high-performing player impact the team’s results.
I’d like to see some A&M fans chime in. Did the NIL help you all get that all world recruiting class coming in?
Walter Nolen says that if it were about money, he would have gone to Tennessee. Shemar Stewart said if he were going for the biggest NIL check, he’d have stayed in Miami.
If so, good for them for excellent managing of the new reality
Whatever A&M spent or didn’t spend is nothing compared to what Texas & USC will spend in order to win.
It’s very good to be a 5 star recruit…..
I think it might have affected Rattler. Both were a risk and only one truly paid off. Young. It’s very easy to think your good when money is thrown at you but you have to remember, your a risk investment until proven otherwise. You have to deliver and this I think will be the biggest challenge for young QB and all players alike.
Hooker this pretty much applies to every team, based upon their level of play. This article is like writing an essay saying water is wet.
Kind of but you have to have an attractive proven product in which to stand on in which to sell. TN does with its offense. The stats and numbers to back it up. That alone sells, along with NIL money, even more so. You still have to produce a system that works to players. TN for instance will have a much easier time selling offense than say SC or Mizzou and money is than the deciding second factor. The trickle down of good players in the portal will increase as well. Lets say Bama and UGA aren’t getting all the players they were due to NIL, well next school up working down that list. Someone is going to the portal and than to a team that isn’t used to getting as many blue chips..
How do you write this article and not even mentions the numerous “collectives” that are coming into favor?
Spyre Sports, a Tennessee-centric college sports collective, goal is $25M.
Weird miss by Hooker.
Weird miss? All Dave does is miss. The man hasn’t put out a half-decent article in years. Honestly I’m kind of surprised that SDS is still paying this guy to keep writing nonsense solely because his nonsense generates clicks and engagement. I thought SDS had at least enough dignity to be above this nonsense, but I guess clicks are just too valuable.
USC just bought the Coach and QB of OU. The Collective’s can’t compete with the Movie business or the Oil Business.
The NCAA & the Presidents knew this and did nothing.
So the basic argument is that Vanderbilt should be the next rising power because Nashville is one of the biggest cities in the SEC and the NIL money will be rolling in. Err, I meant UT/Knoxville. Laughable.
Nashville is a player in the Entertainment Business. That means they do have money and are not restricted in the way they pay people.
If Vanderbilt and TN decide to go full in and pay they will rise.
Think USC here, you can be in movie’s, TV Shows, Music, and have a Girlfriend named Bambi or Shasta. Plus be a millionaire before you are a senior or skip out to the NFL.
Hooker is correct about the NIL and it’s effects on the Vols. Like USC it has access to the Entertainment Business which can hire & pay individuals pretty much whatever they want, than there are the perks…
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