Athlete Compensation Recruiting Woes

FILE - Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada warms up before the start of their game against McClymonds at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Calif., Sept. 30, 2022. Using name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation to recruit college athletes is still very much against NCAA rules. The recent de-commitment from Florida by blue chip quarterback Rashada shows that NIL is definitely a factor in decisions. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group via AP, File)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Billy Napier provided little insight Wednesday into how and why the Gators lost four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada, but said he doesn't expect it to prompt an NCAA investigation.

Napier sidestepped several questions about Rashada, who signed with Florida in December only to be granted his release a month later following a failed name, image and likeness deal worth more than $13 million. Napier repeatedly said NCAA rules prohibited him from providing details.

"I wish we could get into the specifics, but we're not allowed to," Napier said. "I think the reality is the current structure of NIL with third parties being involved, with agents being involved, with marketing representatives, with lawyers, with collectives, (is) very fluid, and I think a very unique dynamic."

Rashada, who threw for 5,275 yards and 59 touchdowns at Pittsburg (Calif.) High last season, was granted his release on Jan. 20 and announced on social media Wednesday that he’s committed to his father’s alma mater, Arizona State.

Rashada bailed on Florida after the Gator Collective — an independent fundraising group that's loosely tied to the university and pays student-athletes for use of their name, image and likeness — failed to honor a multiyear deal that was signed by both sides.

The bombshell came a little more than two months after Rashada switched his verbal commitment from Miami to Florida. Rashada, his representatives and the Gator Collective had presumably agreed to terms on the lucrative deal at the time of his flip.

Rashada declined to enroll with other signees days after playing in a Jan. 3 all-star game in nearby Orlando. The 19-year-old eventually returned to the West Coast and started looking at other schools.

It's unclear when Napier realized the deal was falling apart or how much he even knew about the NIL deal. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from being involved in striking NIL deals with current players or prospective ones.

"I think you spend your entire life, your entire career trying to establish who you are and how you operate," Napier said. "I think, ultimately, I can lay my head down at night based off of that. … Ultimately, the good thing here is I have a lot of confidence with our leadership, strategy that we're deploying, how it's benefitting our team -- the group of players we have on our team. I think we're going about it the right way."

Napier also expressed frustration with the way NIL deals and the recruiting portal have dramatically changed the landscape of college football.

"I think every college football coach would tell you they're frustrated," he said. "We're living in a fluid dynamic. There's a lot of good things about NIL, but I think the combination of the NIL and the portal creates a dynamic.

"We're all aware of the issues and the parameters we're competing in at this point. I think as time goes the market will settle down."

Rashada is the fifth scholarship quarterback to leave Florida since Napier's arrival, following Anthony Richardson (NFL draft), backup Jalen Kitna (dismissed following his arrest on child pornography charges), Emory Jones (transferred to Arizona State) and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (transferred to Syracuse).

The Gators have just three QBs on scholarship: Wisconsin transfer and projected starter Graham Mertz, Jack Miller and Max Brown. Napier said he will be in the market for another transfer this spring.

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