Detroit Free Press

Ex-Florida recruit sues head coach Billy Napier, booster over NIL deal

- Scooby Axson

Former Florida football recruit and current Georgia quarterbac­k Jaden Rashada sued Florida head coach Billy Napier and others on Tuesday, claiming they backed out of a nearly $14 million agreement.

In the lawsuit, obtained by USA TODAY Sports, Rashada says he committed to Florida after turning down offers from different schools and that Napier promised a $1 million “partial payment” to Rashada’s father just hours before he signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Florida.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, claims payment was never received and describes the current college athletics landscape as the “Wild West.”

Rashada filed suit alleging seven different counts of fraud, including negligent misreprese­ntations, tortious interferen­ce, aiding and abetting tortious interferen­ce, and vicarious liability.

“As the first scholar-athlete to take a stand against such egregious behavior by adults who should know better, Jaden seeks to hold Defendants accountabl­e for their actions and to expose the unchecked abuse of power that they shamelessl­y wielded,” the lawsuit states.

Napier is a defendant in the case, along with Florida booster Hugh Hathcock and former Florida director of name, image and likeness, and player engagement Marcus Castro-Walker, who are also accused of interferen­ce in Rashada’s recruitmen­t to Miami, which centered on a $9.5 million NIL contract with Miami booster John Ruiz. Velocity Automotive Solutions LLC is also a defendant. Rashada says in the lawsuit that Florida used “deceitful” promises to flip his commitment to Miami to sign a $13.85 million NIL deal with the Gator Collective.

After Rashada committed to Florida, the lawsuit says that his first $500,000 payment, in essence, a signing bonus, was supposed to come on Dec. 5, 2022. That payment also was never received.

“These actions culminated with Coach Napier himself vouching that UF alumni were good on their promise that Jaden would receive $1 million if he signed with UF on National Signing Day,” part of the 37-page lawsuit says. “Defendant Castro-Walker leveraged the coach’s promise that Napier would ‘get it done,’ and threatened – on National Signing Day – that, if Jaden did not sign a national letter of intent with UF, Coach Napier might walk away from Jaden entirely.

Rashada’s long and winding road to Georgia started when he committed to the University of Miami in the summer of 2022, only to flip his commitment to Florida less than six months later.

He ended up at Arizona State, announcing his commitment in January 2023, and played his freshman season there, throwing for 485 yards with four touchdowns and three intercepti­ons before transferri­ng to Georgia.

 ?? ROB SHUMACHER/USA TODAY NETWORK ?? Arizona State quarterbac­k Jaden Rashada during practice in Tempe on Aug. 8.
ROB SHUMACHER/USA TODAY NETWORK Arizona State quarterbac­k Jaden Rashada during practice in Tempe on Aug. 8.

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