Quarterback, Jaden Rashada #5, Arizona State Sun Devils

Former Florida Gator Recruit Jaden Rashada Sues Coach Over Failed $14M NIL Deal

There is a debate on whether NIL deals are good for student athletes.

Former University of Florida recruit Jaden Rashada filed a lawsuit against the school and its coach, Billy Napier, over his failed historic $14 million NIL deal.

Rashada claims he was defrauded of millions of dollars in his name, image, and money. The suit, filed on May 21 in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, accuses Napier and businessman Hugh Hathcock of fake misrepresentation and inducement, aiding and abetting fraud, civil conspiracy to commit fraud, negligent misrepresentations, inference with a business relationship or contract, aiding and abetting tortious interference and vicarious liability. 

The complaint seeks a jury trial and damages of at least $10 million. There is no mention of a breach of contract, meaning either party could have terminated the agreement at any point without penalty.

Rashada became a household name during his time at Pittsburg High School in California after throwing 5,275 yards and 59 touchdowns. He was supposed to start his collegiate football career at the University of Miami, playing for the Hurricanes in fall 2022, and was promised a $9.5 million NIL deal. But things changed when he was whisked away by Napier and Hathcock — with a $13.85 million NIL deal — promising to play for the Florida Gators.

However, the deal was a violation of the NCAA bylaws. According to the suit, the coach vouched for the collective and mentioned Rashada would receive $1 million on signing day. “But before Rashada could arrive on Florida’s campus, the … contract was terminated — suddenly and without warning,” the suit read. 

The young player “tolerated” several delays in receiving payment before garnering “no faith in the UF football team’s leadership and the individuals who had constantly lied to him.” Rashada’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said fraud such as this is becoming more and more common. “Sadly, this type of fraud is becoming more commonplace in the Wild West that is today’s college NIL landscape,” he said. 

“As the first scholar-athlete to take a stand against this egregious behavior, Jaden seeks to hold these defendants accountable for their actions and to expose their as-yet unchecked abuse of power.”

Other defendants in the suit include Gator’s former director of player engagement and NIL, Marcus Castro-Walker, and Velocity Automotive Solutions LLC, owned by Hathcock, who was said to provide most of the funding for Rashada’s deal.

The NCAA has been watching Florida for a while. An investigation was launched in June 2023 following Rashada’s recruitment. The organization asked the school not to launch its own investigation and said it would contact the school “soon regarding the projected timeline of the investigation.”

However, in March 2023, a look into booster-backed collectives or third parties making NIL compensation deals with Division I athletes stopped, given pending lawsuits. A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit presented by Tennessee and Virginia attorney generals — challenging NCAA rules against recruiting inducements, saying they limit athletes’ ability to cash in on their celebrity and fame.

According to ESPN, the Gator Collective, an independent fundraising organization that provided money to UF athletes, was behind the deal. But after the deal fell through, the group terminated the contract, and Rashada was released from his letter of intent. He ended up signing with his father’s alma mater, Arizona State, and committed to play for the Sun Devils.

After only playing in two games, an injury kept Rashada sidelined for most of the 2023 season. On April 18, he entered the transfer portal and plans to transfer to the home of the Gator’s biggest rivals — the Georgia Bulldogs — where he will have four years of eligibility remaining.

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