NIL drama new normal in this era, as Florida is finding out with Jaden Rashada


It’s mere coincidence “Rashada” rhymes with ‘drama,” but Florida football is wrapped in a New Age college football soap opera.

Will prized quarterback Jaden Rashada be a Gator? Has his NIL deal collapsed, ending his UF career before it even starts?

If so, who’s to blame?

It might take a special counsel to get to the bottom of that. But as the plot twisted last week, the group that birthed this whole NIL mess vowed to do something about it.

“There are serious issues with just letting this train run without doing something to deal with the consequences,” Charlie Baker said.

He’s incoming president of the NCAA, which had its convention in San Antonio. The top agenda item was athlete compensation and figuring out a viable economic model in the NIL era.

Good luck with that.

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The NCAA is about a decade late when it comes to stopping the NIL train. It officially left the station 18 months ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that caps on academic-related benefits violated anti-trust laws.

The NCAA should have seen it coming, but it was too busy counting the TV money provided by its unpaid performers.

In came NIL – Name, Image and Likeness – which was supposed to reward athletes with endorsement deals once they’d gotten to campus and actually done something. It’s quickly become a way to bid for high schoolers. The bidding in Rashada’s case reportedly reached $13 million.

Let that sink in.

On second thought, don’t. If you seriously ponder that we now live in world that places such value on a 17-year-old’s ability to throw a football, you might move to Pluto.

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Anyway, I don’t know if that figure is accurate. With NIL, you never know what to believe.

It’s professionalism lite, but the NFL has a salary cap, viable rules and contracts registered with a union. With NIL, laws vary from state to state.

Rules against “inducements” are easily dodged. There’s zero transparency. It’s a petri dish for misinformation, rumors and speculation.

It’s important to note that the NCAA prohibits schools from setting up NIL deals. They are set up through third-party collectives.

There has to be some coordination with schools, just for roster management’s sake. But NIL budgets only stretch so far, and I have a hard time believing Billy Napier would OK $13 million for any single player this side of Patrick Mahomes.

Whatever the agreement with Rashada, the only certainty is there’s been a serious disagreement over it. From there, it’s largely conjecture.

Rashada-Florida football NIL deal falls into two scenarios

Scenario 1 – Rashada (and his family/representation) moved the goal posts and asked for more than the original sum. UF’s collective is saying a deal’s a deal. Please honor it.

Scenario 2 – UF’s collective moved the goal posts. It decided the original sum was exorbitant. Or it couldn’t come up with the money.

The Rashada camp is saying a deal’s a deal. Please honor it. And while you’re at it, please pick up the six-figure agent fee.

If it’s Scenario 1, you could theorize that Florida wants to nurture the relationship and isn’t going to point the finger back at Rashada.

If it’s Scenario 2, you’d have to conclude UF does not have its NIL act together.

Rashada planned to be an early enrollee, so the situation supposedly would have resolved itself by Friday. That was the add/drop deadline for the spring semester, though short-term waivers are sometimes granted.

If a last-minute deal is ironed out, Rashada could be there when classes resume Tuesday. In theory, he could still enroll in the summer semester if the relationship can be salvaged.

Whatever happens, the entire recruiting world has been watching the soap opera. Damage has been done.

Fair or not, Florida looks dysfunctional. Fair or not, a lot of fans see Rashada as the greedy poster child for a system gone haywire.

NCAA seeking help … from U.S. Congress

It’s definitely fair for fans to be disillusioned with what’s happened to college sports. Which brings us back to the NCAA,

Its leaders talked about new economic models last week. They pleaded for federal help, saying college athletic programs need anti-trust exemptions.

If your best hope lies in the U.S. Congress, you are pretty hopeless.

Missteps that began years ago led to this week’s drama. Given the legal minefield, it could take years to work out effective reforms.

Until then, the NIL crazy train is going to keep barreling down the tracks. And right now, Gainesville looks like Malfunction Junction.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun’s sports columnist. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley

This article originally appeared on Gator Sports: NIL drama between Jaden Rashada, Florida Gators new normal in NCAA



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