So what in the world is going on in Gainesville? That’s my first question.
My second question is, what in the world is Florida going to do for a quarterback now?
The first question is a head scratcher. The second question would require that I unpack my Ouija board. But I can make some semi-educated guesses.
In case you missed it, Florida signee Jaden Rashada, a four-star quarterback out of Brentwood, Calif., has asked to be released from his letter of intent. Why? Florida, or those with fingers on the NIL purse strings, reneged on a multi-million-dollar deal allegedly promised to the prospect.
I hate to say I told you so, but even Stevie Wonder could have called balls and strikes on this one.
Rashada, presumably, had his hand out for $13 million, thanks to the new name/image/likeness concept that has made rich young men out of high school football players. Only Rashada isn’t counted in that number.
At least not yet.
From folks that I’ve talked to who are in the loop at Florida, the powers that be who can legally offer that kind of loot told Rashada there was a problem and he wasn’t getting the cheddar. From everything I heard, his status as an early enrollee wasn’t in jeopardy, he wasn’t hiding some injury sustained in high school game or anything like that. He was seeking a substantial payday that the bank couldn’t, or wouldn’t, accomodate.
Now Rashada has paddled out of the swamp and is heading for greener pastures, and perhaps greener wallets. Keep in mind, he was originally committed to Miami, then flipped up the road a few hours to Gainesville when he learned the Benjamins would abound. Would Mario Cristobal entertain bringing Rashada back into the fold at the U? Possibly, but, right or wrong, Rashada may be regarded as a bit of a diva.
Word is he’s looking at Arizona State or Washington. Is he going to get a magnanimous NIL deal at either of those places? Who knows?
In addition to Rashada coming off as a diva looking to cash in (and who can blame him?), Florida takes a big hit, too. How can a coach come into a kid’s home, sell him on Florida and suggest a good NIL deal awaits, when the stink of the Rashada deal still lingers like the exhaust from a paper mill.
Even worse, we’re seeing the grungy underbelly of this new era in college football. Players no longer dream of wearing a certain color jersey and playing in a legendary play pen. Nope, they couldn’t care less if it was a cow pasture as long as the price is right.
I have no quarrel with players getting paid in the manner prescribed by NIL. Too long, the NCAA, the universities, the conferences and television have profited on the backs of the athletes, who received no (legal) compensation. Turnabout is fair play. But we’re devolving into a culture of selfishness, of me-first mindsets.
These players have to realize, as well, that the NIL motherlode is only as good as the player and his character. Can’t make grades? Can’t stay out of trouble? Can’t make plays? The bank vault quickly closes.
The lack of uniformity in NIL makes more of these incidents likely. What should be done? First of all, there needs to be a uniform rule regarding NIL, how it’s meted out and limits set by either the College Football Playoff, who, I believe, will end up running college football, or the NCAA, God forbid. Each state has its own NIL laws. Some are better than others, which will put the others at a disadvantage. Congress needs to stay out of it, that’s for sure.
Meanwhile, it appears Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz will be the next Florida quarterback that Tennessee’s defense will make look like a Heisman contender.
And before you fans of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida State begin gloating too much, your programs aren’t immune to this sort of thing. It can very easily happen to your program…and likely will.
Jim Steele is a corresponent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs from 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on 95.9 FM, WRJB, Camden, Tenn.