In November 2022, it was reported that Jaden Rashada, a four-star All-American quarterback recruited to play football at the University of Florida, agreed to an NIL deal worth an alleged $13 million dollars with the Gator Collective, a collection of UF boosters and alumni. Yet days before Rashada was scheduled to enroll in classes at UF in the spring 2023 semester, the Gator Collective reportedly notified Rashada of its desire to terminate the NIL deal. At the same time, Rashada decided not to enroll for Spring semester, and raising questions about whether he would ever play football for the University of Florida Gators.
While details surrounding Rashada’s NIL deal and the Gator Collectives alleged termination are sparse, it raises a number of questions, including whether the agreement violated the NCAA “Pay for Play” prohibition, pursuant to which boosters are not allowed to pay players directly or be part of the recruiting process. The NCAA defines boosters as “representatives of a school’s athletic interests”. That definition extends to supporters who have made contributions to a school’s athletic department, arranged for employment of athletes and/or assisted in providing benefits to athletes or their families.
From afar, Rashada’s actions suggest that his attendance at UF was contingent upon the NIL deal with the Gator Collective. From an NCAA compliance standpoint, it begs the question of whether Rashada’s deal violates the NCAAs current “pay for play” prohibition.
Incoming NCAA President Charlie Baker, who begins his term in March 2023, will have to wrestle with this issue as NIL deals continue to become commonplace. While Rashada’s deal is significant because of the dollars involved, there are likely many other similarly structured NIL deals between booster led organizations and student athletes that may run afoul of the “Pay for Play” prohibition. So far, the NCAA has decided to remain silent in the face of such deals, but it is a situation that bears watching.