Jaden Rashada files for release from Florida Gators after NIL dispute

The blue-chip quarterback is moving on from UF, but some drama could still remain in the wildest story of the NIL era.
Blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada was the Florida Gators' top signee but has asked for his formal release.
Blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada was the Florida Gators' top signee but has asked for his formal release. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Jan. 18|Updated Jan. 18

The saga between the Florida Gators and blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada has come to an end.

The Gators’ top signee has filed for a release from the national letter of intent he signed with UF last month. 247Sports first reported the development. Assuming the Gators grant his request, the nation’s No. 56 overall prospect will be able to reopen his recruitment, starting another chapter in a wild, unprecedented process.

Related: Who’s to blame for Florida Gators, Jaden Rashada stalemate?

The California native initially committed to Miami in June. It was a surprise, as many analysts and observers expected him to choose the Gators, and it set off a memorable message-board meltdown among UF fans. Rashada’s name, image and likeness agent told On3 that Rashada left millions of dollars on the table by picking the Hurricanes.

His decision didn’t last. He flipped to Florida in November. This time, the NIL figure is reported to be even higher: $13 million. A dispute ensued over the coming weeks. Though many of the details are not yet fully known, The Athletic reported that the Gator Collective tried to cancel the deal. Rashada signed with Florida, anyway. Eventually. Coach Billy Napier delayed his signing day news conference by an hour, and Rashada’s name was added to the final list of signees.

Related: 6 takeaways from early signing day with Florida Gators, USF, FSU and Miami

That, too, was short-lived. As early enrollees began showing up to Gainesville this month, Rashada did not join them. Rumors of a name, image and likeness dispute began bubbling last week, putting his Florida future in jeopardy. As of Tuesday evening, that future no longer exists.

Quarterback Jaden Rashada signed with the Gators last month.
Quarterback Jaden Rashada signed with the Gators last month. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel ]

His departure is a major blow to the Gators on several levels. As of signing day, Rashada was UF’s No. 1 recruit (he has since been passed by defensive lineman Kelby Collins in the 247Sports composite) and was the Gators’ top-rated quarterback since Will Grier. His absence will drop the Gators’ recruiting class from 13th in the country to No. 17 (including transfers). That’s sixth in the SEC (eighth if you count future conference members Texas and Oklahoma) and one spot below rival Florida State.

Rashada’s exit also damages the talent and depth at the game’s most important position. Last year’s starter, Anthony Richardson, left early for the NFL, and top backup Jalen Kitna was dismissed following his arrest on child pornography-related complaints. UF’s top two options for 2023 will be Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz and Jack Miller, who made his first career start in the Las Vegas Bowl blowout loss.

The Gators must also battle the public-relations fallout. This story became the first known major dispute between a player/recruit and a program’s collective. Neither Napier nor UF controls the Gator Collective, which is a third-party company that pays players through name, image and likeness deals and “exists exclusively for the benefit of Gator athletes and fans.” But Napier and his program will nonetheless have to answer tough questions from skeptical recruits, transfers and their families about the Rashada situation and why similar disputes won’t happen to them. That could make it harder for the Gators to land their next blue-chip prospects.

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Though the tension over Rashada’s UF career is all but over, the drama might not be. There were at least two cryptic tweets circulating Tuesday involving the Gator Collective, including one about possible litigation.

And the school Rashada initially chose, Miami, lost a top young quarterback when former top-50 recruit Jake Garcia entered the transfer portal Tuesday. That opens up a potential, albeit awkward, landing spot for Rashada — which would be one more wild update in one of the craziest recruiting sagas of the NIL era.

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