Hayes: As NIL madness rages, Florida has a chance to take a stand
It’s time to look at this thing strictly from a numbers standpoint.
As if a ridiculous $13 million number isn’t revealing enough.
Jaden Rashada, suddenly the tip of the spear for the unwieldy mess of NIL and recruiting, is a 4-star recruit ranked No. 59 overall in the 247Sports composite.
Walker Howard, a 5-star recruit, was ranked No. 40 last year and already is on his 2nd team, having left LSU for Ole Miss.
This is what Florida — allegedly — is throwing $13 million at? A position whose only certainty is its utter uncertainty.
Some advice for Florida coach Billy Napier: Cut Rashada loose and walk away from the circus.
Florida had enough problems in Year 1 under Napier. The last thing it needs is Rashada and his “camp” — an 18-year-old high school player has a “camp” — airing the dirty laundry of the how and why Rashada committed to the Gators, and why he walked away.
It doesn’t matter if the collective(s) working to support athletes at Florida did everything right. Doesn’t matter how it unfolded, or who made what mistakes or why there was miscommunication.
The collective — and by proxy, Florida — will always be the boogeyman. The player is always the victim.
I’ve said from Day 1 that NIL is a good thing, that players should get all the money they can, when they can. For too long they’ve been scratching for spending cash, while universities are cashing multi-million dollar media rights checks.
Players deserve NIL deals — once they’ve proven their worth. But that’s the rub in this entire process.
What was initially birthed as a way to reward current players on the roster, has devolved into using collectives not officially associated with universities paying high school players to sign with schools.
That leaves college football with boosters who fill the coffers of collectives having input in roster decisions. This is where we are, and someone has to take a stand.
Why not Florida, a desperate blue-blood teetering on the edge of relevancy with back-to-back 6-7 seasons, saying it ends right here. We’re not being held up at the 11th hour, no matter what a collective promised a player.
Florida should’ve walked away from Rashada last month on national signing day, when Rashada went hours without communicating with Gators coaches. Florida had to move Napier’s signing day press conference back an hour before Rashada’s paperwork finally arrived.
It was then that Napier should’ve told Rashada 1 player isn’t bigger than an entire program. Especially one who hasn’t stepped on the field.
Then stand tall at the podium during his signing day press conference and explain he wants guys who want to play for Florida, not guys he has to beg — or guys that flip late.
Then go find a quarterback in the transfer portal — which is the preferred method now of many coaches to build a quarterback room, anyway.
This isn’t the first time — and won’t be the last in the new NIL world — things got sideways late for an elite recruit on national signing day. It rarely, however, happens with quarterbacks.
They typically commit early, recruit other players for the remainder of the class and they’re the first letter of intent faxed on national signing day. The Rashada commitment was late in the process (November), and was a disaster waiting to happen.
But make no mistake, there was NIL money offered to Rashada — and depending on whom you talk to, Florida or Rashada’s “team” blew the deal.
Not that it matters at this point. There are much bigger issues looming.
There was a time not long ago when the idea of players earning money off their name, image and likeness was a good thing. Play a year or 2 of college ball, build your resume and the local Chevy dealer gives you a truck for promoting it.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy in 2021, and led 1 of the 2 best teams in the nation to the national championship game.
Rashada completed 62 percent of his passes this past high school season, and his Pittsburg (Calif.) High School team lost in the CIF 1-A state final.
Young had deals this season with Dollar Shave Club, BMW, Onyx, Fanatics and Cash App, and significant deals with Nissan and Dr. Pepper. His NIL value, per On3.com, was $3.5 million.
Florida — if you believe ridiculous reports floated by “advisors” — was on the hook with Rashada for $13 million over 4 years. Or $3.25 million per year.
All of that for a position that has proven to be a crapshoot. In the past 2 recruiting classes, there were 16 quarterbacks ranked ranked in the top 60 (Rashada was No. 59).
Six were starters by the end of this season.
You want real numbers? Those are real numbers.