🏈 Tennessee believes in Nico

Why Josh Heupel is confident in his young QB

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:

  • Excitement about Nico is growing… inside Tennessee’s program

  • BIG changes are coming to college football — and soon

  • Projecting how the 12-team CFB Playoff might look in future seasons

  • Why Rick Barnes is excited about the new additions for Tennessee basketball

TENNESSEE’S BELIEF IN NICO

Tennessee sees a bright future with Nico at quarterback

Tennessee football had another good week with the news that UT has sold out its season tickets for the upcoming season.

That’s the second straight year Tennessee has sold out its season tickets.

Doing so four months before kickoff has to make athletic director Danny White a happy man.

There’s a buzz around Tennessee football as Josh Heupel enters his fourth season as the Vols’ coach.

What’s the biggest reason for Tennessee selling out its season tickets, which hadn’t been so easy in the last 10+ years?

We discussed that on the show this week and came up with several ideas.

• the stability of Tennessee’s program
• the fact that fans see leadership they believe in
• Tennessee is WINNING

And another reason that factors in somewhere: Nico Iamaleava.

There’s a ton of hype surrounding Tennessee’s starting quarterback thanks to his talent and Citrus Bowl performance against Iowa.

Internally at Tennessee, there’s a lot of belief in Iamaleava.

Josh Pate of Late Kick Live joined our show Thursday after visiting Tennessee’s campus last week.

He told us what Tennessee coach Josh Heupel and people around the program said about Iamaleava while Pate was in town.

“Nico’s a high-profile guy. Nico can earn a lot of money, and he’s got every reason to have sort of those diva traits about him — and he has none of that. And they go out of their way to make sure you understand this guy is a big-time player, a lot’s expected of him, (and) he gets it.

“But from a neck-up perspective, Heupel told me … ‘we couldn’t hoped to have wired him any better mentally.’ It doesn’t mean he’s perfect; he’ll make mistakes. But he’s made of the right stuff.”

Heupel also acknowledged to Pate the potential Tennessee has with Iamaleava at quarterback.

“We’ve got a shot to do everything we want to do as long as we keep him healthy,” Pate said, relaying Heupel’s message.

That last part is a big one.

Protecting Iamaleava and keeping him healthy will be a must.

Because there doesn’t seem to be any doubt — at least behind the scenes — about whether Iamaleava will be ready for the challenge this fall.

Check out our entire conversation with Josh Pate, who offered thoughts on Tennessee’s 2024 schedule, the depth of the new 16-team SEC, and changes that are coming to college football.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S BIG CHANGE

NCAA president Charlie Baker

Speaking of those big CFB changes that we discussed with Josh Pate, they are coming.

And quickly.

“As fast as they possibly can,” Pate said. “Faster than I think we’ve seen anything move in college football.”

We’re talking about the move to revenue sharing with college athletes and the new structure of college athletics, just three years removed from the changes to NIL rules.

ESPN reported this week that the NCAA might pay a settlement of more than $2.7 billion in the House vs. NCAA lawsuit and other related antitrust cases.

Sources told ESPN this week that parties have proposed the NCAA's national office -- rather than its individual member schools or conferences -- would pay for the settlement of past damages over a period of 10 years. The NCAA payments would be paid to former college athletes who say they were illegally prevented from making money by selling the rights to their name, image and likeness.

The settlement would come with a corresponding commitment from conferences and schools to share revenue with athletes moving forward, per sources. The settlement would establish a framework for power conferences to share revenue with their athletes in the future. Sources have told ESPN that schools are anticipating a ceiling of nearly $20 million per year for athlete revenue share moving forward. (That figure for a revenue share is derived from a formula that's expected to be, per sources, 22% of a revenue metric that's still being discussed, which is set to be based on various revenue buckets. It would be up to the schools to share that much.)

Those numbers are not set in stone.

But this would be a significant step in the change we’re seeing in college sports.

Ross Dellenger of Yahoo Sports added this note after speaking to Bowl Season executive director Nick Carparelli.

We’ve seen plenty of complaints the last few years about players opting out of bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft.

There have even been stories of players signing new NIL deals with their college teams but still choosing not to play in their team’s bowl game.

Carparelli believes this might provide a solution.

These types of agreements could also limit the amount of transfers we’ve seen recently.

Currently, the NCAA can’t do anything to keep players from transferring as many times as they want.

Nothing has been decided so we’re still waiting to see what the future holds.

Just know that change is coming — and more quickly than almost everyone predicted.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Georgia coach Kirby Smart has received a new 10-year, $130 million contract, becoming the first $13 million per year coach in college football.

🏈 What exactly is going on with Deion Sanders and his son Shedeur Sanders, Colorado’s starting quarterback?

🏈 A look at the 2022 college football season gives us an idea of what a 12-team playoff will look like moving forward.

🏈 Tennessee's James Pearce Jr. is as high as No. 1 on 2025 NFL Draft boards. Nate Tice of Yahoo has Pearce a bit lower and explains why.

🏀 Here’s an updated Top 25 And 1 from Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.

🏀 And here’s a 2025 bracketology update because why not?

⚾ Tennessee and Florida will play two games on Friday and close the series on Saturday. Here’s a look ahead at the series (before Thursday’s game was postponed).

⚾ Japanese pitcher Shoto Imanaga has made a huge impact on the Chicago Cubs.

STICK TO SPORTS!

Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a Seinfeld obsession.

And anyone who knows Jerry Seinfeld knows he has a breakfast obsession.

So what has he done about it?

He’s made a movie about… Pop-Tarts.

“Unfrosted” comes out today on Netflix and it has a star-studded cast — with Seinfeld making his directorial debut.

How important were Pop-Tarts in the life of a young Jerry Seinfeld?

“My first memory of Pop-Tarts is, once I tasted it, I assumed they would not continue to make other types of food,” Seinfeld said. “It would no longer be necessary to eat anything else.”

If this sounds absurd, Seinfeld would likely agree.

He shared this story from the set of the movie:

"There was one moment where somebody on the crew lost their temper in a very bad way and started yelling really loud and everyone just froze. It was one of those, you know, 'lose it' moments that makes everybody freeze.

“I said, ‘Everybody stop.’ I go, ‘This is a Pop-Tart movie, we are not going to have anybody freaking out. None of this is important.’ And everybody laughed and we just went back to work. It was fun.”

So if you’re looking for something unimportant to fill a couple of hours, check out Unfrosted. Take a look at the trailer below.

TENNESSEE’S SHOOTING FOR A STAR

Chaz Lanier from North Florida is Tennessee’s top remaining target

The transfer portal has quieted down a little bit for Tennessee basketball. 

The Vols landed a second big man at the beginning of the week — Igor Milicic Jr. from Charlotte — to go along with Felix Okpara from Ohio State. 

Milicic is intriguing; he’ll be the first big man with proven outside shooting to play for Barnes at Tennessee.

Milicic and Okpara give the Vols three portal transfers so far (wing Darlington Dubar from Hofstra is the third). 

That leaves guard Chaz Lanier from North Florida as the big one to watch. 

Lanier has a bunch of college options. (“The Chaz Lanier sweepstakes,” as Grant Ramey said this week.)

But the most likely scenario is Lanier choosing between Tennessee and the NBA.  

Lanier had a big-time season at North Florida, scoring 19.7 points a game while shooting 44 percent from three this past season. 

With Dalton Knecht off to the NBA, Lanier would be a nice replacement for the Vols’ scoring. 

And Tennessee has made sure Lanier knows he’s a priority.

Rick Barnes seems confident in how his staff has replaced Jonas Aidoo (headed to Arkansas) and Tobe Awaka (Arizona) in the front court.

At a Big Orange Caravan stop, Barnes pointed to Okpara’s skillset as something Tennessee has been looking for in the front court.

“(Okpara) brings us a physicality that we love to have, that we haven’t consistently had there. With what we’ve seen and the way we evaluated him, I think he’s got some untapped ability offensively.

“He runs. He’s strong. And being around him, he’s impressed me with the fact that he’s got a real competitive edge about him. That’s going to fit in well with our guys.”

Tennessee has work to do on its roster for next season — and the new roster will have to build chemistry to succeed.

But there are several reasons to be excited about what UT’s basketball team will look like next season.

Especially if Lanier decides to be part of it.

Check out our full conversation about Tennessee basketball and the Vols’ transfer additions with Grant Ramey of Volquest.

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