Former University of Florida (“UF”) recruit Jaden Rashada (“Rashada”) has filed a lawsuit against the University’s head football coach, Director of Player Engagement & NIL, boosters, and the company that partially funded an alleged failed NIL deal.

Rashada claims that the UF head football coach, amongst others, defrauded him out of millions of dollars in NIL money, asserting fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, aiding and abetting fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, negligent misrepresentations, tortious interference with a business relationship or contract, aiding and abetting tortious interference, and vicarious liability. 

A highly sought after high school football star, Rashada initially committed to the University of Miami in June 2022 with promises of a $9.5 million NIL deal, only to decommit in November 2022 once UF offered a $13.85 million NIL deal. 

Rashada alleges that UF’s head coach and boosters used “deceitful” promises to convince Rashada to commit to UF, but “changed their tune and went back on their word” once he signed the letter of intent.  According to the complaint, the original deal was organized by the Gator Collective, an independent fundraising organization that distributed money to UF athletes, however the deal as sold to Rashada allegedly never came into fruition. 

Rashada claims that once he was informed that the multi-million-dollar NIL deal was no more, he asked to be released from his UF letter of intent.  Following his release, Rashada then committed to play at Arizona State University, starting as quarterback for the 2023-2024 season.  Rashada has since entered the transfer portal and is transferring to University of Georgia.

The NCAA initiated an investigation of UF in June 2023 due to claims that the football program violated recruiting rules.  The NCAA prohibits boosters and collectives from having contact with prospective student-athletes to discuss potential NIL opportunities in an effort to induce the student to attend a particular school.  Additionally, UF prohibits institutional coaches and staff from organizing, facilitating, or arranging meetings between a booster/NIL entity and a prospective student athlete.  Further, coaches and staff cannot communicate directly or indirectly with a prospective student athlete on behalf of a booster/NIL entity.  The NCAA asked UF not to conduct its own investigation and said it would notify the institution “soon regarding the projected timeline of the investigation.”  This is the second NCAA investigation of UF in the past four years.  In 2020, UF was placed on probation for a year and then-coach Dan Mullen was given a one-year, show-cause penalty for recruiting violations.

The legal disputes surrounding NIL payments continue to hold significant implications for the trajectory of college sports.  While the end results of Rashada’s lawsuit and the NCAA’s 2023 investigation of UF are currently unknown, this new lawsuit is but another example of how the legal framework which initiated the era of NIL is still evolving in material ways.  Given the stakes involved, colleges and universities are wise to engage outside counsel to review their recruiting policies and practices in the fast-developing arena of NIL.