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Big games bring big money for the Vols in name, image and likeness deals

UT started selling football jerseys with players' names on the back. This is new because of Name Image Likeness deals.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Vol Shop is selling jerseys with player names on the back, for the first time this season. 

"It's really exciting," said Tommi Grubbs from the Vol Shop. "We are seeing large numbers of online sales for the custom jerseys."

New rules allow athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness — or NIL. Grubbs said the University of Tennessee set up a store in Neyland Stadium this season that sells products based on NIL deals. Its sales increased 166% over the same store last year, Grubbs said. 

"It's just going to continue to grow," Grubbs said. 

UT partners with Spyre, a local company representing athletes in NIL deals. Bacon & Co, another local company, prints player names on jerseys. The Vol Shop sells those jerseys to fans. 

"This opportunity is available to every UT football player," said Hunter Baddour, the Spyre co-founder, in a text message. "This is brand new to the NIL space and Spyre Sports is excited that we played a role in making it happen." 

Baddour said athletes get paid quarterly for their jersey sales and receive 80% of the royalties. Meanwhile, restaurants and hotels collect more revenue from bug games and big wins.

"Our hotels are full ... our restaurants are full of people," said Rick Emmett, Knoxville's downtown coordinator. "The more we win, the more folks will come back to the games later in the year." 

A study by the UT Athletic Department said the average UT football fan lives outside of Knox County and earns a household income of over $100,000 per year.

"We're always better off when the Vols are winning," Emmett said. 

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