🏈 BIG change is coming to college sports

Are schools ready to pay the players?

Hello. This is the Josh and Swain Newsletter, a quick roundup of the week’s top stories and topics involving Tennessee and the sports world.

Here’s what we have for you today:

  • A spoiler to the ending of this Tennessee/NCAA story

  • Tennessee’s position to make a DEEP run in March

  • The next No. 1 target for Tennessee football in recruiting

  • A never-ending debate for Super Bowl weekend

TENNESSEE VS NCAA UPDATE

Left to right: Donde Plowman, Tennessee AG Jonathan Skrmetti, Danny White

The Tennessee-NCAA conversation has been too much to keep up with at times. 

From the investigation to the lawsuit with a whole bunch of PR mixed in, it’s been a lot. 

(And if you’re already tired of the story, no need to explain why.)

Andy Staples of On3 joined Josh and Swain on Thursday to help make sense of it. 

There are a few questions Tennessee fans probably want answered. 

1️⃣ Should Tennessee be worried about the NCAA investigation?

Staples: “You can’t be in trouble if the rule that you were in trouble for got declared illegal in federal court. So the judge has already said he’s going to declare it illegal. So I wouldn’t worry if I was Tennessee.”

That will ease the mind of a lot of Tennessee fans. 

Staples is referring to the judge stating the “Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim under the Sherman Act” after denying the request by Tennessee and Virginia for a temporary restraining order. 

There’s also a bigger issue to focus on with this story. 

2️⃣ That’s the end of the story. 

College athletes are already being paid. 

But it’s under the description of NIL (for name, image, likeness) while we know the payments are mostly for what the athletes can do on the field or courts. 

That’s why Staples said we’ll ultimately see schools, not their collectives, pay the players. 

“The schools are gonna wind up paying the players directly and there’s probably gonna be some real rules — like there’s probably gonna be a salary cap. There’s probably gonna be contracts that keep players from moving around willy nilly. And it’ll be OK because the players got a chance to have their say on it. That’s ultimately what’s gonna happen. And the world’s not gonna end and there’s still gonna be games on Saturdays in the fall and everybody’s going to love it.”

The world of college sports is going to change in a big way.

Who will make it happen and lead the way?

That’s to be determined; Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti and SEC commish Greg Sankey look like candidates.

But major change is inevitable at this point.

Now we just wait for people to actually make it happen.

Check out our full conversation with Andy Staples below or anywhere you listen to podcasts. ⬇️⬇️

BASKETBALL VOLS ARE FEELING GOOD

Tennessee’s basketball team couldn’t ask for a much better position halfway through SEC play. 

Yes, the Vols would like to get those games against Mississippi State and South Carolina back. 

But every team in the country has one or two of those games. 

Joe Lunardi of ESPN lifted Tennessee to the fourth No. 1 seed on Thursday following the Vols’ win over LSU.

Tennessee is in a position to accomplish every goal it set at the start of the season. 

◼️ Tennessee is a top contender for the regular season SEC title

◼️ The Vols could earn the school’s first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tourney

◼️ Tennessee has developed an offense that’s required to succeed in March 

Will Tennessee win an SEC title or go beyond the Sweet 16 in March?

Games have to be played to answer those questions, obviously. 

But few teams have a better chance to make it happen than Tennessee. 

Zakai Zeigler is playing like an All-SEC point guard on both ends of the floor. 

If other players find consistency to support Dalton Knecht’s scoring and UT’s front court stays healthy, Tennessee is a Final Four contender. 

Back to the games being played part. 

Saturday’s game at Texas A&M won’t be easy. 

📍 College Station, Texas
📅 Saturday, Feb. 10
8:00 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

KenPom projects the Vols to win by five points. 

But that’s the only game out of the next five that project as a real test for Tennessee. 

Following a home game against Texas A&M on Feb. 24, Tennessee’s final four regular season games look tougher than a typical road to the final Four

Feb. 28 vs Auburn
March 2 at Alabama
March 6 at South Carolina
March 9 vs Kentucky

Those four games will play a huge role in determining Tennessee’s seed for the NCAA Tournament. 

In the meantime, the Vols have to keep their focus against teams they’re expected to beat. 

Do that… and Tennessee’s goals will be within reach. 

➡️ By the way: VFL Chris Lofton loves Tennessee’s chances of making a deep run in March.

Lofton joined us on Monday after attending Tennessee’s 103-92 win at Rupp Arena.

Lofton told us why he believes the Vols can make a run at the Final Four on the show.

Check out our full conversation below. ⬇️⬇️

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Here’s Andy Staples’s column on the advisory group announced by the Big Ten and the SEC.

🏈 Watch this video of Tulsa football coach Kevin Wilson sharing an exchange he had with a transfer prospect.

🏈 Here are the ESPN expert picks for Super Bowl LVIII. A LOT of the picks went toward Kansas City.

🏈 A legendary gambler has given his pick for the Super Bowl. He thinks the line is off by a few points.

🏀 Should Zakai Zeigler be on this list of Dick Vitale’s top six point guards in college basketball?

🏀 Here’s a look at winners and losers from the NBA trade deadline (VFL Grant Williams was sent from Dallas to hometown Charlotte).

🤯 The note below is kind of wild. What a run (that’s not over) for VFL Josh Richardson.

TENNESSEE’S NEXT BIG TARGET

2025 OL David Sanders | via On3

While Tennessee’s athletic department deals with the NCAA, Josh Heupel and his coaching staff are business as usual.

And a lot of their focus right now is on recruiting for 2025.

The top target: offensive tackle David Sanders from Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C.

Sanders is the consensus No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2025 class.

He can go anywhere he wants — and Tennessee might just be the place he chooses.

The Vols have made Sanders a priority (of course, so have other schools).

One thing that might help Tennessee: quarterback commit George MacIntyre has been influential in UT’s recruitment of Sanders.

MacIntyre said he would do everything he could to help Tennessee recruit after he committed to the Vols in January.

And Sanders told Volquest’s Austin Price this week that he and MacIntyre have developed a strong relationship.

“For the last six months or so, those guys have been really, really, really tight,” Price said. “They have become really good friends. It goes a long way to building a bond in the recruiting process.”

Tennessee has plenty of work to do with Sanders, who will consider schools like Clemson and Georgia with others (Alabama, Ohio State, South Carolina) pursuing him as well.

But Tennessee has made it clear to Sanders how important he is to the future of UT’s offense.

Tennessee has invested heavily in the quarterback position; protecting the QB is a top priority.

We’ll see how much Sanders believes in what Heupel and his staff are building in Knoxville.

Check out more of our conversation with Austin Price, who discussed several other recruiting targets as well as the latest with Tennessee’s plan for an Orange and White Game. ⬇️⬇️

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE GAME

Remember this classic?

It’s hard to have a conversation about the Super Bowl without the commercials coming up in conversation.

We see some of them on the internet before the game even takes place.

It might not be the same as it once was.

But Super Bowl commercials will always have a role in the game’s storyline.

So what’s the greatest Super Bowl commercial of all time?

This ranking from Entertainment Weekly placed Mean Joe Greene’s 1980 “Hey kid, catch!” ad for Coca-Cola at No. 1.

That’s a fine choice.

So would Apple’s “1984” spot or one of the commercials featuring talking babies or chanting frogs.

A personal favorite: Michael Jordan’s battle with Larry Bird for MJ’s Big Mac in 1993.

Jordan and Bird went back and forth to see who could hit the toughest shot without missing. It was great.

They were also able to film the commercial without a cable TV debate the following Monday over which player performed better in the ad.

What’s your favorite Super Bowl commercial?

Enjoy the MJ/Larry Legend throwback below.

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