Florida releases QB Jaden Rashada from national letter of intent

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Highly touted high school quarterback Jaden Rashada is leaving Florida, a break that was weeks in the making and cost the Gators one of their most prized recruits.

Florida officially granted Rashada release from his National Letter of Intent on Friday, three days after he asked to be released.

Rashada’s decision came after the Gator Collective, an independent fundraising group that is loosely tied to the university and pays student-athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness, failed to reach an agreement to four years worth more than $13 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither party publicly acknowledged the split.

The high-profile case will bring changes in Florida, to say the least. It could also lead to a lawsuit and potentially an NCAA investigation.

Rashada changed his verbal commitment from Miami, Florida to Florida on November 10. Rashada, his representatives and the Gator collective had presumably agreed to the terms of a lucrative NIL deal at the time of his flip.

One of Florida’s biggest boosters, millionaire businessman Hugh Hathcock, tweeted “Tomorrow is going to be a great day Gator Fans!!!” the night before Rashada’s announcement. The next day, less than five hours before Rashada publicly announced his flip, Hathcock tweeted “All good!!! Just a little more!!!”

The deal fell apart less than a month later. The Athletic reported that Gator Collective CEO Eddie Rojas sent a termination letter to Rashada and his representatives on Dec. 7. It’s unclear why the deal collapsed, but a source with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP that not all of the financial backers were aware that the signed deal had increased by roughly $5 million over four years to more than 13 million dollars.

Rashada did not sign with other signees days after playing in an All-Star game on Jan. 3 in nearby Orlando. The 19-year-old eventually returned to the West Coast.

Rashada is a five-star QB prospect from Pittsburg, Calif., who is ranked No. 29 overall by 247Sports in the recruiting class of 2023. His father, Harlen Rashada, played defensive back at Arizona State (1992-94).

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Rashada threw for 5,275 yards at Pittsburg High School last season, with 59 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

His initial decision to come to Florida was considered a boon to first-year Gators coach Billy Napier, and Rashada was expected to compete with Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz for the starting job at Florida, which has now lost five scholarship quarterbacks in the last 10 months. . Starter Anthony Richardson left early to enter the 2023 NFL Draft, linebacker Jalen Kitna was dismissed after his arrest on child pornography charges and Emory Jones and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson transferred last spring.

Florida also had its eye on Tulane’s Michael Pratt and Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, but Pratt ended up returning to Tulane and Hartman landed at Notre Dame. The Gators also lost former LSU quarterback Walker Howard, who is transferring to Ole Miss despite a long relationship with Napier.

Rashada is free to sign up elsewhere without having to enter the transfer portal. He has already been linked to Arizona State and Washington State.

What remains to be seen is whether Rashada sues the Gator collective, along with possibly the athletic department and university, in hopes of getting at least a portion of the $13 million he was promised. He could ask for more if he feels his reputation has been damaged.

The Gators could still use help at the top QB position with only three quarterbacks on scholarship: Mertz, sophomore Jack Miller and freshman Max Brown. The bigger question: How will Rashada’s failed recruitment affect future prospects?

Florida already plans to encourage its collectives to make changes, with a possible merger between the Gator Collective and the more exclusive Gator Guard. Personnel movements within the group are also planned.

The NCAA could also investigate. The sanctioning body has rules on NIL agreements. Boosters and NIL entities may not engage in conversations or recruiting activities about prospective student-athletes, and pledges may not be made between family members and boosters or NIL entities that are dependent on the prospective student-athlete’s enrollment at an institution .

Collectives have circumvented those rules with zip code clauses, according to Florida attorney Darren Heitner, who works with the Gator Collective. The clauses use contract language to stipulate that student-athletes must reside in a particular jurisdiction for the agreements to be payable.

Associated Press report.

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