Exclusive: NCAA Investigates Florida Football Program Over 2022 Recruitment Controversy

Gainesville, Florida – The NCAA is currently investigating the University of Florida’s football program over its recruitment of quarterback Jaden Rashada in 2022, according to sources familiar with the matter. The NCAA’s notice of inquiry was sent to the school last summer, but the specific focus of the investigation was not disclosed.

Rashada, a highly sought-after four-star recruit hailing from Northern California, found himself at the center of a fierce bidding war for name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights between boosters at Florida and Miami in 2022. Ultimately, he signed a lucrative deal with the now-defunct Gator Collective, which promised him a staggering $13.85 million over four years. Shortly after, Rashada made the surprising move of committing to the University of Florida.

However, the Gator Collective reneged on the deal less than a month later, leading Rashada to seek a release from his letter of intent. Ultimately, he ended up signing with Arizona State and had a brief stint with the Sun Devils’ football team.

The NCAA’s inquiry is said to be examining the roles of Florida staff member Marcus Castro-Walker and booster Hugh Hathcock in the recruitment process. Castro-Walker, listed as the director of player engagement and NIL on the school’s website, and Hathcock, who pledged a hefty $12.6 million to the athletic department, are under scrutiny for their possible involvement in the deal.

If Florida is found to have violated NCAA rules, it would join two other schools in the state that have faced penalties related to NIL activity. Last year, Miami’s women’s basketball coach faced charges of facilitating impermissible contact between a booster and prospective players, resulting in probation and recruiting sanctions. Additionally, Florida State University’s football program recently received penalties for impermissible contact between a transfer prospect and a booster.

NIL has undoubtedly revolutionized college sports, but it remains prohibited in the recruiting process according to NCAA regulations. While recent rule changes now allow schools to connect enrolled players with boosters, it is still strictly prohibited for prospects.

The University of Florida has emphasized its commitment to cooperating with the NCAA, stating that it upholds high standards of excellence and integrity both on and off the field. However, due to NCAA policies on confidentiality, the university declined to provide further comment.

As the NCAA investigation unfolds, it raises questions about the impact of NIL on college athletics and the role of boosters in recruiting processes. The outcomes of similar cases in Miami and Florida State serve as a reminder that schools must navigate these evolving regulations carefully to avoid potential penalties. With the increasing influence of NIL, it remains to be seen how college sports will continue to adapt and address these challenges.