NIL Deal Gone Wrong: Former University Of Florida Recruit Sues Head Football Coach & NIL Collective

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McLane Middleton, Professional Association

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Founded in 1919, McLane Middleton, Professional Association has been committed to serving their clients, community and colleagues for over 100 years.  They are one of New England’s premier full-service law firms with offices in Woburn and Boston, Massachusetts and Manchester, Concord and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 
On Tuesday, May 21, former University of Florida football commit and current University of Georgia football player, Jaden Rashada, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court...
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On Tuesday, May 21, former University of Florida football commit and current University of Georgia football player, Jaden Rashada, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against the University of Florida's head football coach, Billy Napier, along with several large Florida Gators boosters and others, alleging that they defrauded Rashada out of several millions of dollars when they reneged on an agreed upon $13.85 million name, image, and likeness (NIL) agreement. As part of his complaint, Rashada claims that he had received offers from other schools, including the University of Miami, which according to reports, offered Rashada a $9.5 million NIL deal to attend Miami, and that he passed up that offer to accept Florida's higher offer.

Less than a month after Rashada announced that he would be attending the University of Florida, he received a letter from the Gator Collective, an NIL collective that offers NIL deals to student-athletes that attend the University of Florida, stating that his NIL deal was being terminated. However, Rashada's contract with the Gator Collective was only terminable for "cause," which Rashada argues there was none. With no NIL contract, Rashada was told by his agents not to sign his national letter of intent with the University of Florida, which prompted Coach Napier to call Rashada and promise him that he would indeed receive the $1 million signing bonus that he was promised. Rashada went onto sign his national letter of intent with the University of Florida, however, despite doing so, it appears Rashada never saw any of this money per the complaint, leading to the lawsuit that was recently filed.

Ordinarily, this would have been a clear recruiting violation under the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) NIL interim policy and corresponding guidance as NIL money was being used to induce Rashada to attend the University of Florida. Indeed, the NCAA had already begun an investigation into Rashada's contract with the Gator Collective before pausing all NIL collective investigations after to the preliminary injunction that was issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. As a result of this preliminary injunction, student-athletes like Rashada have no other recourse than to pursue legal action in an attempt to enforce their rights under any NIL agreement. With the NCAA's control over schools and student-athletes dwindling away, it seems plausible that lawsuits like Rashada's may become the norm, rather than the oddity. However, with that being said, it is important to remember that a NIL agreement between a student-athlete or a prospective student-athlete and a third-party is treated, and should be treated, as any other contract between two parties, including one party taking the other to court to enforce their rights under the contract.

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