Hayes: Jaden Rashada, NIL and a growing problem that will only get bigger
Let’s just say, for fun’s sake, that Jaden Rashada was offered millions to sign with Florida.
Let’s just say, for fun’s sake, that Rashada decommitted from Miami and signed with Florida because a collective connected to the Gators had a verbal agreement to pay a high school player more than a starting NFL quarterback.
Let’s just say, for fun’s sake, that a heavy hitting Gators booster (or boosters) who funds the collective saw the numbers that were offered after signing day, and said you must be out of your mind if you think I’m paying that.
Now let’s just say, for fun’s sake, you’re Florida coach Billy Napier. How in the world do you coach that player?
Rashada on Tuesday reportedly asked for his releases from Florida, but this stupefyingly strange situation isn’t unique to Rashada or the Gators. The overwhelming questions remain for all involved.
How does Napier or any coach bring in a high school player ranked No. 35 on the 247Sports composite, and explain to the rest of your roster that this is your quarterback from Day 1 — knowing full well the team knows he allegedly signed a multi-million dollar NIL deal.
No competition. No work. No building and bonding and leadership and chemistry, and all of those things that turn talented teams into dangerous teams.
Just walk into the building and the job is yours.
Because if you think any coach is going to sit a freshman signee who has a fat NIL contract, you clearly haven’t watched this nonsense play out. The genie, everyone, is out of the bottle.
Exhibit A: The Texas A&M Aggies.
The greatest collection of high school talent ever, the best recruiting class in the history of recruiting rankings — all bought and paid for, according to a certain incredibly envious coach — led to 5 wins.
And — I know this is hard to fathom (that’s sarcasm, folks) — 7 players from that star-studded class have already hit the transfer portal and found new homes.
Meanwhile, the coach of the program who signed the greatest class ever has officially hit the panic button, hiring a nomadic program-killer to coordinate his offense and coach — this is just so rich — a 5-star talent at quarterback.
From the same damn recruiting class.
Let me explain the 1 thing that will absolutely gut a team: a high school player who signs a fat NIL deal and — because he’s not a better player than the guy in front of him — doesn’t play.
I know in this world of branding and social media and “I” before “we” that it’s hard to imagine, but there are some guys who actually want it more. Who will work harder and are consistent in their preparation and will get on the field — because the goal every day is getting better and winning games.
Not getting the highest NIL deals on the field.
So I don’t care who offered what to which recruit at Florida. I don’t care who reneged on what terms and for how long.
Because the more high school players are paid, the more problematic it becomes to seamlessly assimilate to the program. The more problems with the buy-in, the less chance of winning.
I’ve said from Day 1 that players must get everything they can, when they can. Once programs have no use for you, they’re on to the next player with the next NIL deal.
This isn’t about players and money. These guys have been on the short end of the deal for 150 years. Don’t blame them.
This is about the convergence of coaches and boosters in college football, and the dangers of that tenuous relationship now out in the open. Years ago, when money changed hands under the table, it was easy for coaches and players to control boosters.
Players never spoke of receiving cash because it’s taxable income. Boosters never spoke of giving cash because Uncle Sam wants to know how much and where and when.
It was dirty, but it was their dirty. Now that it’s scrubbed clean and forced into the open, the human condition has taken over and changed every dynamic.
Now there’s entitlement and bruised egos and players leaving after 1 season. There are fractured locker rooms, and underachieving teams.
There are boosters wondering why the guy they paid $50,000 isn’t playing — and what about their rate of return?
And if you don’t play him, I’ll find somebody who will.
Where you once simply stopped leaving paper bags of cash in a bus locker when a player wasn’t performing, there are now legal contracts that can be litigated.
There are now shady “advisors” and third-party “go-betweens” who are steering 18-year-olds through the depths of the underbelly of the sport. They’re using the media to throw out ridiculous, laughable numbers being offered — in Rashada’s case, $13 million — because the only market value is what they determine.
For so long, players were being used by universities. Now they’re being used by “advisors.”
Now let’s look, for fun’s sake, at the Jaden Rashada story through that lens. A broken NIL deal — who cares what reason — of a player who isn’t even a top-30 recruit, sidetracking the positive recruiting momentum of Napier and leaving his program wallowing in the narrative of reneging on NIL deals.
The genie, ffs, is out of the bottle.
So is everything that goes with it.