Broken promises are hard for us all, but imagine if that promise was worth millions of dollars. This is what happened to Jaden Rashada, a five-star quarterback prospect from Pittsburgh, CA. The high school phenom was originally slated to play for the University of Miami but de-committed and enrolled at the University of Florida after he received a $13MM NIL deal from the Gator Collective. In a shocking twist, the Collective rescinded its agreement and Rashada has since cut ties with Florida.
Currently, there is mostly speculation as to what happened between the Gator Collective and Rashada. The deal was agreed upon on November 7th of 2022, but CEO Ed Rojas rescinded it exactly one month later. Based on sources close to the negotiations, it became apparent that the signed deal was far over Rashada’s NIL market value, so the Collective decided to pull it. As a result, Rashada requested and was granted a release from his signed letter of intent with UF. Now, he is free to enroll at a different school without having to enter the transfer portal. There are rumors that Rashada is meeting with Washington, Arizona State, Texas Christian, and Colorado State.
Rashada may decide to sue the Gator Collective, the UF Athletic Department, and the University to get compensated for all or part of the deal he was promised. He could even seek additional monetary damages if he can prove that his reputation has been damaged. It is also possible that the NCAA could get involved, as this situation seems to violate their prohibition of “Pay for Play.” Theoretically, Collectives are neither allowed to participate in recruiting conversations with prospective athletes nor promise any deals that are contingent on a prospective student attending a university.
While it is not clear what lies ahead with this situation, the one thing that is clear is that the system is flawed and that change is needed. This will be a highly scrutinized and evaluated saga for athletes, universities, the NCAA, and attorneys in the coming months.
Implications and What Lies Ahead
There are at least three legal issues at play in this case. The first is whether the NCAA’s rule against “Pay for Play” is legally enforceable against the Gator Collective. The second is whether a Collective is legally bound by its promise to a student; this could either be a written or oral promise. Although no written documents have yet to surface in Rashada’s case, it will be of great interest to determine how a promise, if any, was made. Lastly, the University of Miami may have a tortious claim against UF since UF potentially interfered with a contract and convinced Rashada to back out of his original commitment to them.
All these issues may be a smoking gun for Congress to finally get involved with NIL deals. The amount of money that students are earning from these agreements has gotten so astronomical, there is now a need for congressional regulation and oversight. These issues also have us wondering what the purpose of the NCAA is and what value it provides student-athletes. If the NCAA has hope of retaining its status, it must shift its organizational focus to acknowledge that NIL is here to stay and develop a framework around it. It needs to consider both schools and students in order to develop a mutually beneficial business model.
It was inevitable that we would get to this point with NIL. Although the shift in rules has been greatly beneficial to athletes, it’s time that schools, the NCAA, the Collectives, and Congress all get involved to align on how to best move forward. It is clear that rather than rules, strict regulations are needed so these types of situations do not occur again and disrupt the NIL movement and all it has accomplished.