NCAA Football

Rashad’s case in Florida points to problems at NIL, the recruiter

Rashad’s case in Florida points to problems at NIL, the recruiter

Broken promises and unrealistic expectations have been a part of college football recruiting since coaches introduced their programs to living rooms across America.

Opportunities for playing time and travel in the NFL are traded, as always, but now potentially lucrative endorsement deals by teams that run boosters are also in the mix. After signing a national letter of intent, prospects can feel even more inadequate.

Jaden Rashada will be among the unsigned blue-chippers when college football’s traditional winter signing period begins Wednesday. The four-star quarterback from California signed with Florida in December, but has since requested his release an endorsement deal with the team, potentially worth more than $13 million, fell through.

The ill-fated deal between Rashada and the Gator Collective — the one that helped convince him to ditch his previous verbal commitment to Miami and offer a name, image and likeness from the collective that works with Hurricanes athletes — should be a wake-up call for recruiting in the NIL era.

“NIL and the presence of collectives and promises to prospects create an aspect of the recruiting experience that is 100% out of the school’s control, and what is magnified in Rashada’s situation is that independent third-party promises influence where kids decide to go to school.” – said Blake Lawrence, CEO of Opendorse, a company that works with schools and communities to ensure compliance with NIL and other services.

The NCAA lifted its ban on athletes cashing in on their fame in 2021. Although the association still has rules in place that make it illegal to use the NIL as a recruiting incentive, patchwork state laws and fear of legal challenges prevented the NCAA from enacting detailed, uniform rules.

Rise of collectivesoperating outside of the school and its athletic department, but ideally in their best interest, forced the NCAA to explain that collectives—as individual accelerators—cannot participate in the hiring process.

But the lines are blurring as coaches try to present NIL potential to recruits with no guarantees.

Coaches who train well at NIL say things like, “I can’t promise you anything.” But I can share that the player in your position on our campus is getting XYZ right now,” Lawrence said.

Coaches and employees of sports departments can publicly support teams who support their athletes even though they cannot raise funds directly. This allows recruits to easily identify the teams most closely associated with the schools that train them.

However, many of those in charge are cautious when it comes to contact with recruits.

“They can turn to us. Honestly, I avoid these conversations because it’s a very fine line between sharing information and seduction,” said Gary Marcinik, president and CEO of the Cohesion Foundation, an NIL group that works with Ohio State athletes.

Mike Caspino, an NIL attorney who has worked with numerous college athletes on deals with teams — including Miami’s Rashada — sees it differently.

He said the difference between recruiting proposals that are in and out of the rules comes down to semantics. Ideally, schools would be directly involved in NIL transactions rather than having their interests represented by an outside entity with little accountability.

Caspino said the Rashad/Florida situation is indicative of systemic problems with NIL and recruiting.

“For example, the lack of proper representation on both sides, the lack of documentation, for example, we have to treat these as the business transactions that they are,” Caspino said. “And in any business transaction, we’re going to have a contract that defines everyone’s obligations and the benefits that everyone gets from the contract. And we don’t do that.”

Lawrence also said the reality behind the rhetoric is that most collectives are not funded well enough to meet the demand for NIL deals.

Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said coaches are concerned about teams dictating which players they can recruit.

“They don’t control some of the processes that happen and who you get. And that’s why you don’t even get the (players) you want,” Berry said.

Berry said most coaches would prefer to work collegiately with established players already on campus.

“So now you have an external entity that basically assigns value to the players, and you don’t really even have control over the value of what’s going on,” he said.

Mitt Winter, a Kansas City sports attorney, said the fallout from Rashada’s suspension should cause schools to take a hard look at the teams they support.

“I think the moral of the story is, as a team, you need to focus on dealing with the current athletes and helping them with their NONE opportunities,” Winter said. “And you leave the recruitment to the coach.”


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