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Alabama AD comments on NCAA-Tennessee legal fallout: ‘NIL is part of recruiting’


Greg Byrne, Alabama director of athletics


What happens when the Wild West loses any guardrails it had to begin with? That’s the question Alabama’s athletic director Greg Byrne and others in his role are now facing in the fallout of a federal court’s ruling in the ongoing trial between the NCAA versus Tennesee and Virginia.


U.S. District Judge Clifton Corker deemed that the NCAA’s name, image and likeness rules limit the earning potential of athletes, a violation of antitrust laws. The sports-leading body can no longer enforce its own NIL rules under the preliminary injunction.


In a statement released Friday, the NCAA told CBS Sports the decision “will aggravate an already chaotic” scene.”


NCAA president Charlie Baker called upon Congress for guidance “because people will draw a lot of conclusions,” when speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill. What about Byrne?


“Obviously, we’ve been in a constant state of transition for the last several years and this was another major change. We’re all trying to make sure we are supportive of the young people in our program,” Byrne told reporters before speaking to the Birmingham Tip Off Club. “Making sure we are following the rules and the process and at the same time too, not exactly knowing where all the rules are necessarily. NIL is a part of recruiting, it is.


“Whether you want it to be part of recruiting or not, it’s something that recruits are asking the people around them. That’s why it’s part of recruiting. You have to be able to keep an arm’s length from that. But when somebody asks you every single day of a recruiting time about it, then it’s part of it.”


The Crimson Tide has worked to catch up to the pack in the ever-changing NIL landscape. The state legislature hindered Alabama and Auburn’s ability to facilitate deals for players in a cumbersome 2022 bill. It was repealed — with one lawmaker citing the recruiting battles the state was losing — and Alabama quickly introduced a partnership with High Tide Traditions, a third-party booster organization.


After the NCAA passed guidance allowing schools to be more directly involved, HTT dissolved in favor of Yea Alabama, which is now deemed the “the official University of Alabama NIL entity” per its website.



Yea Alabama and UA have tried to demonstrate the NIL value to fans not accustomed to having a roster exodus as seen following Nick Saban’s retirement. The addition of Michigan transfer defensive back Keon Sabb was first reported by Yea Alabama’s director of content Aaron Suttles, a longtime sports reporter at The Athletic and The Tuscaloosa News. The site has also put interviews with key DeBoer assistants, who have not been made available for questions with local media, behind a paywall.


More and more administrators have spoken out on NIL, toeing a line between acknowledging the troubles it causes to the college model and encouraging player compensation. Former Alabama football coach Nick Saban has decried the state of the sport as “not college football” and the phrase ‘student-athlete’ “doesn’t exist.”


“(Saban) and I have talked about it a lot. We (as a school recruiting players) don’t talk about education much anymore. That’s a challenge,” Byrne added. “We need to make sure there are good, legitimate marketing opportunities that young men and young women have the opportunity to capitalize on.”


Byrne said it would be “irresponsible” to not consider Saban’s advice for the long-term health of the game. Many have clamored for Saban to assume a role as a college football commissioner. Meanwhile, the NCAA awaits antitrust legislation from Congress that’s unlikely to come.

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