The NCAA is investigating Florida's football program regarding the 2022 recruitment of quarterback Jaden Rashada, a person interviewed and a second person briefed on the investigation confirmed to The Athletic.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that the NCAA sent the school a notice of investigation last summer, but it did not specify the subject of the investigation. The respondent, who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter, said he was asked after the transfer who also committed to Florida this year.
Rashada, a four-star recruit from Northern California in the class of 2023, was the subject of a wild zero-bidding war in 2022 involving upstarts Florida and Miami. On November 10, 2022, Rashada, who previously committed to Miami, signed a contract with the now-defunct Gator Collective promising a whopping $13.85 million over four years, The Athletic reported last February. Rashada announced his commitment to Florida that evening.
However, the collective canceled the deal less than a month later. Rashada signed with Florida during the December signing period, but did not report in January and asked to be released from his letter of intent. He then signed with Arizona State, where he started the Sun Devils' season opener and appeared in three games last season.
“We have worked with the NCAA and will continue to do so,” Florida senior associate athletic director Steve McClain said in a statement. “We value excellence and integrity on and off the field. Because we follow NCAA guidelines for maintaining confidentiality, we cannot provide additional comment.”
According to the two sources familiar with the investigation, the NCAA has inquired about the role of Florida employee Marcus Castro-Walker, listed on the school's website as director of player engagement and NIL, and booster Hugh Hathcock, who is 12.6 In April 2022, he donated $1 million to Florida's athletic department and later founded the Gator Guard collective. Several Hathcock tweets posted shortly before Rashada's signing, indicating a big day for Florida, also hinted at possible involvement in the deal.
Florida could become the third school in its own state to face NCAA penalties for NIL or NIL-adjacent activities. Last February, Miami (Fla.) women's basketball coach Katie Meier was charged with two Level II violations, which were mitigated through a negotiated settlement and resulted in one year of probation and recruiting sanctions. The violations involved arranging improper contact between rising star John Ruiz and the Cavinder Twins, who had joined the Miami team.
Earlier this month, the NCAA imposed penalties on Florida State football, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins and a collective for improper contact between a transfer prospect and a booster, again as part of a negotiated settlement. Atkins pushed then-Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims into a meeting with a representative of the Rising Spear collective in 2022 and later provided false or misleading information about it. Atkins received a show-cause sentence, FSU was fined and received probation and scholarship cuts, and the school must distance itself from the collective for one year and the support association for three years.
As much as NIL has changed college sports, NCAA rules do not allow it to be used in recruiting. Recent rule changes now allow schools to match athletes with up-and-comers, but only enrolled players, not prospects.
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