Florida Gators Under NCAA Investigation
By: Robert Craft
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Recently it was announced that the Florida football program is under NCAA investigation, and yes, that investigation is still ongoing.
Moreover, the investigation started months before the NCAA sent a Notice of Inquiry to Florida President Ben Sasse back in June.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the investigation centers around the recruitment of four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada. He flipped from Miami to Florida on Nov. 10, 2022, after signing an NIL deal with the now-defunct Gator Collective for $13.85 million over four years.
The contract was terminated on Dec. 7, less than a month later. Rashada still signed early with UF but never enrolled last January and was released from his letter of intent after the NIL deal fell through.
He landed at Arizona State and opened last season as the starter, and only played three games due to injury.
According to sources, the NCAA investigation into Rashada’s recruitment involves Marcus Castro-Walker and Hugh Hathcock. Castro-Walker serves as the director of player engagement and NIL for the football program, while Hathcock a longtime UF donor pledged a record-setting $12.6 million to Gator Boosters in 2022 and has spearheaded Florida’s NIL efforts.
NCAA rules prohibit boosters from using NIL as an incentive or inducement to recruit high school or transfer players.
California became the first state to allow high school athletes to be paid through NIL contracts, so Rashada was legally allowed to sign with Gator Collective. The issue at hand, however, is when, how and by whom that deal was facilitated.
Florida recently came under NCAA investigation in 2020 under former coach Dan Mullen. The inquiry found two violations: a Level II violation with Mullen and an assistant- they met a recruit before his junior year of high school, as well as a Level III violation involving members of the Gators’ coaching staff having impermissible contact with over 120 prospects when seven 7-on-7 football teams visited the campus and toured the football facilities.
The assistant coach had incidental and impermissible contacts with several prospects, according to the agreement.
Last May, the NCAA Board of Directors sent out a new guidance to its Division I member schools clarifying their NIL stance and prohibiting.
“The guidance is effective immediately,” the NCAA release stated. “For violations that occurred prior to May 9, 2022, the board directed the enforcement staff to review the facts of individual cases but to pursue only those actions that clearly are contrary to the published interim policy, including the most severe violations of recruiting rules or payment for athletics performance. Schools are reminded of their obligation to report any potential violations through the traditional self-reporting process.
Today, the Division I Board of Directors took a significant first step to address some of the challenges and improper behaviors that exist in the name, image and likeness environment that may violate our long-established recruiting rules. While the NCAA may pursue the most outrageous violations that were clearly contrary to the interim policy adopted last summer, our focus is on the future. The new guidance establishes a common set of expectations for the Division I institutions moving forward, and the board expects all Division I institutions to follow our recruiting rules and operate within these reasonable expectations,” board chair Jere Morehead, president, University of Georgia, said in the statement
The NCAA is out to make a statement, but a toothless statement, because they are so afraid of a lawsuit and court date. Is Rashada going to haunt the Florida Football?