June 4

College QB Suing Former Coach Over Failed NIL Deal

Athletes, Finance, NIL

Former Florida recruit and current Georgia quarterback Jaden Rashada is suing University of Florida coach and several others for what he alleges are unfulfilled promises in a failed NIL deal. According to Rashada, Florida coach Billy Napier and megadonor Hugh Hathcock convinced Rashada to abandon a commitment to rival school Miami University with $13.85 million that never materialized. 

The ordeal underscores just how new — and unprotected – the NIL landscape still really is. 

How The Lawsuit Almost Didn't Even Happen

Alright, so there are a lot of different pieces to this lawsuit. For starters, the whole thing was kind of "on pause" until a Tennessee judge halted NCAA rules that prohibited athletes from seeking money during recruiting in the first place. 

Basically, the NCAA was investigating Rashada's situation not because of unfulfilled promises, but because the NCAA was out to penalize different parties for promising money in the first place. Now that it looks like the writing is on the wall and student athletes will be allowed to freely accept money as part of the recruitment process, Rashada's lawsuit against Napier, Hathcok, and others is back on. 

According to Rashada's attorney Rusty Hardin, the lawsuit is ultimately meant to crack the whole world open. “The big goal here is to shine daylight into what’s really going on here for people to decide,” Hardin told The Washington Post. “Are we so bothered by what’s going on here that we’re willing to take some action?”

The Failed Florida NIL Deal In A Nutshell

So here are the broad strokes of what allegedly happened. Rashada was ESPN's seventh-ranked quarterback recruit in the country when he graduated from a California high school in 2022. He met Florida megadonor Hugh Hathcock during a recruitment trip to UF, during which Hathcock allegedly told Rashada he would make whatever needed to happen in order to land him as a recruit happen, including extending a job offer to Rashada's father. 

By the time Hathcock ultimately made an NIL deal offer to Rashada for $11 million, Rashada had already accepted a $9.5 million deal to attend UF rival Miami University. That's when UF's director of player engagement and NIL, Marcus Castro-Walker, allegedly reached out to push the issue and get Rashada to flip. 

Ultimately, Hathcock reportedly put together a deal including $5.85 million of money from his company Velocity Automotive and $8 million from Gator Guard, an NIL collective. But that money never came.

In fact, the only thing that Rashada ever received was $150,000 wired to him from Hathcock. Coach Napier reportedly pressured Rashada to move forward with his signing, saying at least $1 million was coming his way from Hathcock. Ultimately Rashada signed with Florida but then transferred to Arizona State in 2023 after his lawsuits says he "was left with no faith in the UF football team’s leadership and the individuals who had constantly lied to him." He eventually then transferred to Georgia.

There are a few other little pieces to the story, including the involvement of another NIL collective, but that's it in a nutshell.

How NIL Deals Are Still 'The Wild West'

That phrase — "the Wild West" — may seem cliché, but it's still quite fitting for where we currently sit when it comes to NIL deals, student athletes, collectives, and the future of the sport. Right now, we're sitting in an interesting space where we know college students have the right to earn money from their likeness, but we don't have many protections in place to regulate how. 

There have been multiple attempts to do so, but unfortunately many of them seem to be attempts at persuading federal legislation at the behest of organizations like the NCAA, which fought tooth and nail against college students making money in the first place. With the seemingly inevitable future of schools directly paying student athletes a revenue share from TV contracts, it's only going to get more confusing trying to figure out how to navigate these waters. 

Right now, many student athletes are looking at potential deals without even having a firm grasp on financial management. In some cases, these students can't even open bank accounts in their own names yet. When you add in the unusual passions with which alumni approach college sports, you get an environment that's ripe for misunderstandings and, ultimately, lawsuits.

One thing is clear — universities and athletic programs will need to create safeguards and curriculum for helping student athletes manage all their potential opportunities, from small product deals to multi-million dollar offers. 





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