NCAA investigating Florida football regarding Jaden Rashadah recruitment in 2022: Sources

The NCAA is investigating the Florida football program regarding the 2022 hiring of quarterback Jaden Rashadeh, an interviewee, as well as another person briefed on the investigation, confirmed to The athlete.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that the NCAA sent the school a notice of investigation last summer, though the letter did not specify the subject of the investigation. The interviewee, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, said he was asked about the transfer he committed to Florida that year as well.

Rashada, a four-star recruit from Northern California in the Class of 2023, was the subject of a wild bidding war in 2022 that included boosters in Florida and Miami. On November 10, 2022, Rashada, previously committed to Miami, signed a deal with the now-defunct Gator Collective, promising a staggering $13.85 million over four years. The athlete Reported last February. Rashada announced his commitment to Florida that night.

However, the group backed out of the deal less than a month later. Rashada still signed with Florida during the December signing period but did not sign in January and requested a release from his letter of intent. He subsequently signed with Arizona State, where he started the Sun Devils' season opener and played in three games last season.

“We have been and will continue to cooperate with the NCAA,” Florida associate athletic director Steve McLean said in a statement. “We hold ourselves to high standards of excellence and integrity on and off the field. Because we follow NCAA policies on confidentiality, we are unable to provide additional comment.”

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According to the two sources familiar with the investigation, the NCAA inquired about the roles of Florida employee Marcos Castro-Walker, listed on the school's website as director of player engagement and NIL, and booster Hugh Hathcock, who pledged $12.60. million to the Florida Athletic Department in April 2022 and later launched the Gator Guard Collegiate. Several of Hathcock's tweets were posted right before Rashada's commitment, hinting at a big day ahead for Florida, and also hinting at the possibility of being involved in the deal.

Florida could be the third school in its state to face NCAA sanctions for NIL or NIL-adjacent activity. Last February, Miami (Fla.) women's basketball coach Katie Meyer was charged with two Level 2 violations, which were reduced through a negotiated resolution and resulted in a year's probation and recruiting penalties. The violations were related to facilitating impermissible contact between booster John Ruiz and the Cavender Twins, who joined the Miami team.

Earlier this month, the NCAA sanctioned Florida State's football team, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins and a collegiate group for impermissible contact between a transfer prospect and a backer, again through a negotiated resolution. Atkins led then-Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims to meet with a representative from the Rising Spear group in 2022 and later provided false or misleading information about it. Atkins was given a cross penalty, FSU was fined and received probation and scholarship reductions, and the school must distance itself from the group for one year and the booster for three years.

As much as the NIL has changed college sports, NCAA rules do not allow it to be used in recruiting. Recent rule changes now allow schools to connect athletes with boosters, but only registered players, not prospective players.

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