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Georgia QB Jaden Rashada sues Florida coach Billy Napier, booster over NIL deal

Players on the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium^ also known as The Swamp - home of the University of Florida Gators during an SEC football game.

According to documents obtained by The Athletic on Tuesday, former University of Florida recruit Jaden Rashada has sued Florida coach Billy Napier, a booster and others in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, alleging that they defrauded him out of millions of dollars during the University of Florida recruitment process. Napier, former Gators director of player engagement and name, image and likeness Marcus Castro-Walker, booster Hugh Hathcock and his former company, Velocity Automotive Solutions LLC., are named as defendants. Rashada is the first known college athlete to sue his coach or a booster due to a dispute of a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal.

Rashada, who is now the new quarterback for University of Georgia, states in the lawsuit that he signed his national letter of intent to Florida on Dec. 21, 2022, less than an hour after Napier promised the player’s father a $1 million “partial payment” that day upon signing. However the lawsuit says that Rashada never received the $1 million, and the boosters never fulfilled the deal.

The lawsuit also alleges that Rashada was persuaded to flip his commitment from Miami to Florida based on a $13.85 million NIL deal he signed with the Gator Collective, an independent organization that fundraises money and gives it to Gators athletes through NIL agreements: “But once Jaden committed to UF, rather than make Jaden ‘rich’ as promised, these people — with Hathcock leading the charge — changed their tune and went back on their word. The amount of UF-affiliated NIL money available for Jaden decreased drastically.”

The filing includes a series of text messages that Castro-Walker allegedly sent to Rashada’s NIL agents as during the Gators’ attempt to get him to sign; however, NCAA rules prohibit use of NIL deals to lure prospects to sign with specific schools and forbids booster involvement in the recruiting process, with the suit stating: “Sadly, unethical and illegal tactics like this are more and more commonplace in the Wild West that is today’s college football landscape.”

The Florida athletic department did not immediately respond when asked for comment. Rashada, who ultimately signed with Arizona State, completed 44 of 82 passes for 485 yards, four scores and three interceptions in three appearances last season for the Sun Devils. In April, he announced his transfer to Georgia.

Editorial credit: Bill Ragan / Shutterstock.com

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