Florida coach Billy Napier and others made false promises to former signee Jaden Rashadeh: Lawsuit

Former Florida quarterback Jaden Rashada has filed a lawsuit against Gators coach Billy Napier, a former UF employee and major university supporter, alleging they made “false and fraudulent promises” to induce Rashada to sign with the program in 2022.

Rashada initially committed to Miami in June 2022, before his senior year of high school, but returned to Florida five months later after signing a stunning four-year, $13.85 million contract with the Gator Collective, a now-defunct organization that brokered the name. , Picture and Example (NIL) deals for athletes in Florida.

However, weeks later, the group terminated his deal before paying him a scheduled signing bonus of $500,000. Rashadeh claims that in doing so, he lost a deal worth $9.5 million that he concluded with the huge Miami company.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants continued to make financial promises to entice Rashada to sign in December, which he did shortly after “Coach Napier himself asserted(ed) that the UF alumni were good at promising that Jayden would receive $1 million if he signed with UF on National Signing Day.” “

The unusual NIL bidding war between the Florida and Miami boosters for Rashada, as detailed by The athlete In last year’s story, it came amid the rise of schools’ NIL groups — independent organizations that provide NIL financial opportunities to college athletes mostly by raising money from donors, fans and boosters. Less than two years later, collegiate teams are ubiquitous and play a major role in recruiting college football players.

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The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, alleges six counts of fraud, negligence and tortious interference against Napier; former member of the soccer team, Marcos Castro-Walker, who served as NIL’s soccer program director; Florida mega booster Hugh Hathcock; and Hathcock’s automotive business. Florida fired Castro-Walker on February 1, shortly after The athlete He reported that he was one of the subjects of a since-stalled NCAA investigation into Rashaada’s recruitment.

The lawsuit seeks damages “exceeding the amount or value of $10 million.”

“Unfortunately, this type of fraud is becoming more common in today’s Wild West of nothing more than a college landscape,” said Rusty Hardin, the attorney representing Rashadah. “Wealthy alumni, consumed by their schools’ sports programs, exploit young people by offering them life-changing sums of money, then reneging on their commitments. As the first sports scholar to take a stand against this egregious behavior, Jaden seeks to hold these defendants accountable for their actions and expose their abuse of power.” Unchecked so far.

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Rashada, who was released from his letter of intent at Florida in January 2023, eventually signed with Arizona State, where he started the Sun Devils’ 2023 season opener as a redshirt freshman. He recently announced his decision to transfer to Florida’s rival, Georgia. Napier avoided specifics when asked about Rashada’s departure at the time, but spoke generally about NIL to The Associated Press, saying: “I think the reality is the current structure of NIL with third parties involved, with agents involved, with marketing representatives, with lawyers and groups, ( It’s) very fluid, and I think there’s a very unique dynamic.

Hardin, who has represented such high-profile sports figures as Roger Clemens, Adrian Peterson and Deshaun Watson, said the family retained him in January 2023, but he delayed filing suit in hopes that the NCAA investigation into Florida and Rashadah’s recruitment to Miami would put the matter to rest. It is solved.

“Jaden was indecisive (about filing a lawsuit) for a while,” Hardin said. “He likes Napier personally. But he is becoming aware of more and more players – perhaps not at this level, with this much money up front – who have the same experience.”

The lawsuit alleges that Hathcock, a wealthy Florida benefactor, began pursuing Rashada around the same time Rashada committed to Miami, and verbally offered an $11 million deal to choose the Gators instead of the Hurricanes. Some media outlets reported that Rashada had a $9.5 million deal with the Miami booster. By October, Hathcock had settled the deal for nearly $3 million to convince Rasheda to flip, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit cites an Oct. 27 text message from Castro-Walker to one of the player’s NIL agents, Jackson Zager, that read: “You already know what we have to do over the next few days!! Get us a QB. 👀🤣.”

The lawsuit alleges that Hathcock planned to finance the final $13.85 million bid in part through his company, Velocity Automotive, which is named as a co-defendant, but the contract bid itself came from Gator Collective.

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The lawsuit cites several texts between Eddie Rojas, CEO of Gator Collective, and Zager, including: “Tell Jaden we’re looking to set him up for life. Need to set up brokerage accounts for him ASAP. Dude is rich and we’re just getting started. And also:” We’ll have to dodge the freaks in Miami[.] I hate Miami. This will be fun to watch.”

Rashada publicly announced his move from Miami to Florida on November 10, 2022.

NCAA rules prohibit schools from using NIL funds as an incentive for recruiting, and at the time of these events, NIL boosters and groups were prohibited from discussing financial terms with recruits. However, a judge’s preliminary injunction in March prevented the NCAA from enforcing those rules. After that, the NCAA temporarily halted investigations like the one conducted in Florida.

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According to the lawsuit, over the next few weeks, several individuals associated with Hathcock, including Castro and Walker, confirmed to Rashada’s representatives that Hathcock would pay $500,000. Instead, the group terminated the agreement on December 6. The next day, Castro-Walker told agents that Hathcock still planned to pay the $13.85 million, but it would come from his announced group, called Gator Guard.

As the early signing period approached on Dec. 21, the lawsuit alleges, Jayden asked his father, Harlen, and his agents, “Can I sign?” Zager replied: “Not yet.” “Castro Walker called Harley to confirm that Jayden would receive the $500,000 and all promised future payments.”

Napier’s scheduled national signing day press conference was postponed while Rashada continued to hold out. Around that time, Napier allegedly contacted Harlen, who informed Rashadah’s agents: “Coach Napier said [Hathcock’s] On a plane and it will wire 1 mil. He wants the papers and I’ll send them to you if you’re good.

Less than an hour after that conversation, the lawsuit says, Jayden signed up.

According to the suit, the only money Rashadah received from the Florida camp was a $150,000 wire transfer from Hathcock so “Jaden could avoid potential litigation with Miami’s John Ruiz, who was seeking to pay off a $9.5 million deal after Jaden backed out.” About his commitment. From Miami to UF.”

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The athleteA February 2023 story reported that Rashadah had already received “about $125,000” from Ruiz’s company, LifeWallet. Ruiz said The athlete At the time, “there was no agreement between Rashadah and LifeWallet for $9.5 million or nothing even close to that.”

“That’s not true,” Hardin said. “He could say there is no written contract, but oral contracts are the same thing.” (Oral contracts are enforceable in Florida.)

Ruiz issued the following statement to: The athlete Tuesday morning: “Neither LifeWallet nor John H. Ruiz had any deal with Rashad worth $9.5 million. LifeWallet had a very small deal with Rashad when he was a (high) school student in California. Rashadeh and his father are standing alone. So far, I personally have a very good relationship with both. They both know that we dealt with them honestly and fairly as we always do with all players who have nothing. LifeWallet has a proven track record of compliance on all of its loss-free trades. LifeWallet was paid by those who control the Gators’ fundraising efforts. While I have my own view on this, at this point this young man’s concern should be the focus.

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Having previously committed or signed with three schools, Miami, Florida and Arizona State, Rashada is expected to report to Georgia for summer workouts next month.

“Similar to his decision to attend Arizona State, Jaden’s decision to attend Georgia this year was not in response to any promises, assurances or offers associated with nothing money,” the suit says. “He’s learned his lesson.”

“We do not comment on ongoing litigation, and neither the university athletic association nor the university are named in the complaint. The UAA will provide personal counsel to Coach Napier, and we will direct all questions to those representatives,” UAA spokesman Steve McLean said in a statement.

Castro and Walker did not immediately return calls and text messages for comment. when The athlete I contacted Velocity Automotive for comment from Hathcock, and an employee said Hathcock had sold the company.

Read the full lawsuit here.

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is reading The athlete Investigative report on Jaden Rashadeh’s recruitment here.

(Billy Napier Image: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

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