Hunter Baddour knew the Transfer Portal was looming in October.
Just days after Tennessee beat Alabama for the first time in 15 years, the co-founder of Spyre Sports Group openly talked about the need to be ready for Dec. 5. The marketing agency runs the NIL collective The Volunteer Club and Volunteer Legacy, which acts as the 501(c)(3) wing.
Even though the Vols were amidst their best season in recent decades, Baddour and his co-founder James Clawson were starting to brace for the offseason.
“With success comes the reality that we’ve got some really good players on this football team,” Baddour said after the historic 52-49 win. “They’ve put themselves in a position that they’re going to have options in terms of the portal. That’s just the reality that we’re in. And so we have to keep the foot on the gas from a fundraising standpoint. It’s critical that everybody steps up and realizes that we have a great thing going, and we can keep it going.
“But in the NIL world, it’s going to require a significant amount of cash.”
Since then, donations have continued to grow. Volunteer Club recently announced its 1,998 active member. That’s been on the uptick since Tennessee’s Orange Bowl win over Clemson.
On Wednesday, the collective announced the signing of six defensive lineman. Player retention through NIL collectives has become a necessity for most major programs.
Here is the list of athletes:
The commitment to the Vols’ defensive line comes less than a week after quarterback Joe Milton re-signed his agreement. Each athlete signed to the Volunteer Club has agreed to an event series partnership, which calls for appearances at events and a social media post.
About the Volunteer Club
NIL collectives have surfaced at nearly every Division I school in the first two years of name, image and likeness. The race is to stockpile the most cash to distribute to current players so recruits know what they can make once they enroll at the college.
Baddour and Clawson formed Spyre back in 2020, before the onset of the NIL Era. Since then, Spyre has become the top deal facilitator in Knoxville. This summer, they took Hendon Hooker and Cedric Tillman to New York City for meetings with brands, future partners and stock market executives.
To date, the Volunteer Club has distributed more than $4.5 million to Tennessee athletes. Spyre has been open about its goal of raising at least $25 million annually to put into the pockets of athletes.
“College football’s a multi-billion dollar business,” Baddour previously said. “And just with football, winning matters. And winning is important because it can generate millions of dollars for not just the athletic department but for the entire academic community. In addition, it has a direct impact on the bottom line of businesses all across the state of Tennessee. And it comes down to players. The players win the games. And that’s just the reality.”