Charted: Tennessee’s Return to National Prominence

The headline is a bit misleading, but here’s the prompt: Could the NCAA’s ruling, which allows collegiate players to profit from their likeness, signal the return of the Tennessee Volunteers to national prominence? 

Aside from the ruling likely signaling a return of NCAA Football to gaming consoles, the NCAA opening the door for athletes to monetize their likeness could prove to open the door for Tennessee to re-stake its claim in the college football landscape.

Why? Tennessee, despite a tumultuous decade, generates the most revenue in the SEC nearly year in and year out. Why does that matter? If players are able to generate profits from their likeness, what better pitch to sell them than dollars and cents? College Football is more about Jimmies and Joes than it is about Xs and Os. Money likely plays a bigger role than many realize in helping the top players in the country make the decision about where to spend their time in college. Recruits will now be pitched on their ability to exchange their likeness for cash. This shift in the college football landscape could be gigantic. 

Traditional blue blood programs are typically those that bring in the most revenue.  The amount of money that fans contribute towards their respective programs each year should serve as a marker of the type of profit that a player could stand to gain should he or she excel in sport at the university. Simply put, these programs have their money where their mouth is. The NCAA’s ruling could aid in resurrecting programs that have struggled for the last ten to twenty years. Tennessee is among the top 5 programs in the nation in revenue. Furthermore, One could easily argue that if Tennessee were to find itself among the top of the SEC East rather than the bottom over the last ten years then the department would have generated even more revenue over the last few years.

Rebuilds are often a bit like moving a steam engine. Momentum is initially hard to generate, but able to carry a program once it is heading in the right direction. Success will breed more success for the athletic department and the team alike. One will feed the other more so than we have seen in years past.

There is a reason that Tennessee Twitter is undefeated. There is a reason that attendance approaches one hundred thousand week in and week out. Tennessee’s fan base is among the most loyal, dedicated and hungry fan bases in the country. The top is ready to pop off. The ruling will not kick into effect for three more years, but the pitch can still be sold to recruits making their decision in this years’ class if they plan on spending more than three years on the hill. This will begin to pay dividends, literally and figuratively, to these players and the program moving forward following the NCAA’s ruling. Prepare to see Tennessee join the top ten and potentially even top five in recruiting in the class of 2021 and the years to follow.

Vol fans will hope that Jeremy Pruitt will be the man to take the hill, so the glory years may return once more. The forecast looking ahead might just be a breezy, sunny 98 degrees with a small chance of a ring. It’s been a rocky road, but we might just be on our way to the top. Enough cheesy closers. Michael Piper. Signing out.