Skip to content

Rashada suing Florida's Napier, booster over NIL deal

Icon Sportswire / Getty

Georgia quarterback Jaden Rashada is suing Florida head coach Billy Napier, Gators booster Hugh Hathcock, and former football staffer Marcus Castro-Walker, claiming they defrauded him of millions of dollars by backing out of a NIL deal that was valued at $13.85 million, according to CBS Sports' John Talty.

"The collective never had the money, and yet, they were making all of these promises to the kid," Rashada's attorney, Rusty Hardin, told Talty. "You dangle life-changing, generation-changing money in front of a 19-year-old kid, who grew up without it, you can't expect that young person to not be affected by it. The bargaining power is totally unequal here."

The lawsuit alleges that Napier, Hathcock, and others fraudulently induced Rashada, who was a high school prospect at the time, to commit to Florida with no intention of following through on the financial promise. Fraudulent misrepresentation and inducement, aiding and abetting fraud, and civil conspiracy to commit fraud are among several claims made in the lawsuit.

Rashada is the first known college athlete to sue an active coach or booster regarding a dispute involving NIL. The case was filed in the Pensacola Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Tuesday.

Rashada was the No. 31 overall prospect in the 2023 recruiting cycle, per the ESPN 300. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound passer was also the No. 2-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class.

"Sadly, unethical and illegal tactics like this are more and more commonplace in the wild west that is today's college football landscape," the lawsuit states, according to a copy obtained by ESPN's Paula Lavigne and Dan Murphy. "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."

Rashada backed off a $9.5-million offer from Miami, which he was previously committed to before signing with Florida, according to the lawsuit. The quarterback is also seeking punitive damages.

Hathcock, who owns a local car dealership, approached Rashada when he visited Florida in June 2022 and said he would get the quarterback "whatever (he) needed" and mentioned a possible job for Rashada's father, the lawsuit states.

Florida's offer allegedly included $13.85 million over four years, including $5.35 million from Hathcock with a $500,000 "signing bonus" through his car dealership. The remainder would be covered by the NIL collective Gator Guard, according to the lawsuit.

Rashada received a letter from the Gator Collective nearly a month later in December 2022, "purporting to terminate" the NIL contract, the lawsuit states. Termination of the contract could only be completed under the provision with cause, sources told Lavigne and Murphy.

Napier and Castro-Walker, who served as the director of player engagement and NIL, said they would "make good" on the promised payment, according to the lawsuit, and the group also informed Rashada's NIL agents that Hathcock and the Gator Guard collective would personally pay out the $13.85 million.

After receiving $150,000 to pay off money owed to a Miami booster, Rashada didn't have a NIL contract to sign, according to the filing. He considered backing off his verbal pledge before signing day but ultimately signed a letter of intent to attend Florida after Napier promised a $1-million payment to him and his father during a phone call, the lawsuit states.

Rashada withdrew his intent to play for Florida in January 2023 after he didn't receive any additional payments aside from the $150,000, according to the filing. He ended up playing for Arizona State last season before transferring to Georgia in April. Rashada informed head coach Kirby Smart of the lawsuit and received his blessing, per Talty.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox