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Florida Gators have a new NIL collective. Here’s why it matters

Three months after the multimillion-dollar Jaden Rashada saga, the Gators’ name, image and likeness structure has changed.
 
Florida Gators football players will have a new NIL collective: Florida Victorious.
Florida Gators football players will have a new NIL collective: Florida Victorious. [ Times ]
Published April 11, 2023|Updated April 11, 2023

The Florida Gators’ name, image and likeness structure was overhauled Tuesday when a new group, Florida Victorious, became the main NIL organization supporting UF athletes. It supplants the Gator Collective and aims to merge multiple third parties under one roof.

“We know the Gator Nation wants to win on and off the field,” Florida Victorious CEO Nate Barbera told the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s our goal … and we’re here to help do that and help make that happen.”

Here’s what you need to know about the change:

What’s Florida Victorious?

It’s a new, two-pronged NIL group for Gators athletes. One prong is a for-profit company that operates like a collective. Fans collectively pool their money to pay players for name, image and likeness opportunities. In return, fans get access to things like meet-and-greets and memorabilia. Monthly membership fees range from $15 to $250.

Its other prong is the Florida Victorious Foundation, which focuses on philanthropy. The group had been operating since June as the Florida Achievement Support Trust.

How is it connected to the Gator Collective?

Florida Gators fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be asked to support a new NIL entity, Florida Victorious.
Florida Gators fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be asked to support a new NIL entity, Florida Victorious. [ LAUREN WITTE | Special to the Times ]

Florida Victorious has acquired current members of the Gator Collective — a group of thousands, according to its CEO, Eddie Rojas. Florida Victorious also took some of the Gator Collective’s assets but hasn’t purchased the company or its contractual obligations. Rojas said the move was necessary to maximize UF’s success in this pivotal space.

“This is the right call for the future,” Rojas said, “and I’m excited about where it’s going to go.”

Why does this matter?

Because name, image and likeness deals must be done by third parties, they’re inherently complex. The more parties involved, the greater chances for error — like the multimillion-dollar dispute that cost Florida prized quarterback Jaden Rashada (we’ll come back to that).

More NIL groups also mean duplicated costs — another reason why entities across the country are merging; two UCF groups consolidated last month.

“This is an opportunity for us to kind of create a new unified entity that will really take us to the next level and turn the next page in UF NIL,” Barbera said.

The move comes two months after a change to the state’s NIL law allowed Florida schools to be more involved. The change isn’t a response to that, but the group does have a sponsorship with Gators Sports Properties.

Was this a reaction to the Jaden Rashada saga?

Jaden Rashada signed with the Florida Gators but left for Arizona State after a name, image and likeness dispute.
Jaden Rashada signed with the Florida Gators but left for Arizona State after a name, image and likeness dispute. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel ]
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Quick refresher: Rashada was a blue-chip recruit who signed with the Gators in December but didn’t join after a name, image and likeness deal fell through, leaving a major stain on the program.

Rojas said the Gator Collective “acted with the utmost ethical and moral behavior in every circumstance” and that conversations with Florida Victorious started before the Rashada saga.

“It had nothing to do with (Rashada),” Rojas said. “Finding a way to catapult Gator Nation into a bigger NIL is really the crux of it.”

When asked directly whether the Rashada dispute led to the change, Barbera praised the Gator Collective’s start.

“What I would say there is that we always want the University of Florida to be painted in a positive light …” Barbera said. “They’re just passing the baton to us and kind of creating the next generation of NIL at the University of Florida. So we’re excited to get going and kind of create the new path forward.”

Who else is involved with Florida Victorious?

Founder Jose Costa is a UF alumnus on the UF Foundation’s executive board. His businesses include a Miami-based plant supplier, Costa Farms, and real estate firm Fourshore Capital. Chief of staff Ryan Dunn spent six years working in the Gators’ athletic department.

Its advisory board is notable. It includes donor Hugh Hathcock, who promoted yet another NIL entity, the Gator Guard; he called it an “exclusive club for high-net-worth Gators.” Barbera said they’ll be “essentially working together” under the new model.

Other advisors include: former UF football players Anthony Richardson, Danny Wuerffel and Trey Burton; former Gators basketball star Patric Young; mega donor Gary Condron; ESPN reporter Laura Rutledge (a St. Petersburg native and UF alumna); and Chris LaFace, a member of the Gator Boosters’ board of directors and the CEO of Tampa construction company RIPA & Associates.

What are the Gators saying?

Florida Gators football coach Billy Napier teased to a change to UF's NIL efforts recently.
Florida Gators football coach Billy Napier teased to a change to UF's NIL efforts recently. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

Football coach Billy Napier said in a statement that the move “allows us to be competitive in the NIL space and do it better than anyone in the country.”

Men’s basketball coach Todd Golden said, “pairing Gator Nation with Florida Victorious will create fantastic opportunity for our student-athletes in the NIL space.”

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