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?
By: Robert Craft
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Most of Gator Nation didn’t even know who Jaden Rashada was two months ago. Today, his recruitment has fans wondering whether this staff can close the deal.
I understand that sentiment stems from other prospects as well, but the Gators haven’t had enough top targets in the 2023 cycle yet.
With Rashada included, it’s too early to be judging their efforts for this ‘bump’ class. Recruits have to be ready, or scheduled to announce before they can close on them.
Billy Napier and his army showed that ability in his transition class, finishing with a top-20 ranking after signing top-100 prospects Shemar James and Kamari Wilson.
He also landed impact transfers O’Cyrus Torrence, Montrell Johnson, Jalen Kimber and Ricky Pearsall.
We are six months away from the early signing period for the 2023 class. Only two of the top 15 players in the Sunshine State have committed, Keon Keeley (Notre Dame) and Raylen Wilson (Michigan), along with just six of Florida’s top 30 players.
The Gators hosted 19 of those 30 recruits for unofficial and/or official visits this spring/summer and are currently the favorite for eight of them.
UF is also up to 31 official visitors so far this month, and only one prospect who was uncommitted prior to his trip has since pledged elsewhere (Jordan Hall to Michigan State).
Aside from Hall, the only other significant 2023 target Florida has missed on so far is five-star cornerback A.J. Harris, who recently committed to Georgia.
Harris stated that he attended a UGA camp in sixth grade, shook Kirby Smart’s hand and told Smart he was going to play for him one day. Realistically, it sounds like the Gators had their work cut out for them.
With Aaron Gates committed, plus a recruiting board with five-star Cormani McClain, top-200 Sharif Denson and 6-foot-3 cornerback RJ Johnson, Florida should be fine at their position. McClain is a must-get, but his recruitment will be a marathon.
Four-star running back Treyaun Webb, who officially visited UF earlier this month, makes his commitment on June 30.
Five-star receiver Jalen Brown and top-150 prospects Aidan Mizell, Eugene Wilson III and Will Norman all plan to decide before their senior seasons.
The Gators will need to close on those recruits, along with Rashada, in the coming weeks and months. If they land at least half of the targets above, their 2023 class will be in good shape heading into the fall.
Should most of them commit elsewhere, then there will be cause for concern. Either way, the end of summer is when we’ll have a realistic idea of where this class stands.
I’ll say this: Napier won’t miss any of his targets for lack of trying (or name, image and likeness). The Gator Guard has established UF as one of the foremost aggressive NIL collectives, and Napier’s investment and involvement in recruiting is the most we’ve seen from a Florida coach since Will Muschamp.
In terms of ranking the last four Florida coaches as “closers” and how aggressively they recruit, I would list them in this order based on my knowledge: 1) Will Muschamp 2) Billy Napier 3) Jim McElwain 4) Dan Mullen.
I looked back at how many signees from each of those classes joined before July.
Muschamp had the most with 10 commits, although one pledged to the previous staff.
McElwain and Mullen both had eight commits, but only six committed to Mullen.
Urban Meyer, who signed a top recruiting class in 2006, had just five members in it at the end of June.
I wrote when Billy Napier was hired that he would be judged on this recruiting class. Judgment Day is in February, not June.