Less than 24 hours after Tennessee won the Fiesta Bowl, Adidas lit up TV screens around the country with a commercial congratulating the Volunteers on their national title. It was a thoughtful gesture by the official outfitter of Tennessee's sports teams. It was also a violation of NCAA rules.
Those rules prohibit student-athletes from appearing in ads that feature the ad-makers' merchandise. Adidas's spot clearly shows its logo on the wristbands, shoes and jerseys of Vols players. "There's nothing wrong with Adidas or any other company producing a congratulatory ad that includes the company's logo, so long as its product isn't identifiable," NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro said last week. "To continue using the spot, Adidas will have to remove those clips or sanitize the ad so that the logos on the products don't appear." Adidas didn't respond to SI's inquiries.
Last Friday a Tennessee spokesman told SI that the school had instructed Adidas to fix the ad immediately or take it off the air. Since players had not given Adidas permission to use their likenesses, and the school—which was not paid for the ad—took measures to correct Adidas's error, the NCAA had no plans to punish Tennessee. Asked what penalties Adidas might face, an NCAA spokeswoman said, "We can't really do anything."