If you’re at all involved in college football news, you’ve likely seen a big ol’ number floating around the rumor mill this week: $9.5 million.
Shock! Outrage! How can a high school kid who’s never played a down on a college field be guaranteed that amount of money?
The thing is — he might not be.
The initial shock of such an enormous number faded quickly into suspicion and skepticism, especially as the four-star QB himself, Jaden Rashada, took to Twitter yesterday to make a statement, writing:
“Any report regarding my commitment to the University of Miami is false unless I was interviewed directly. All reports of my decision involving a NIL deal is inaccurate [sic]. I would never make a life/career choice for any monetary value.”
He continued: “I chose Miami because of the relationship I have with the coaches, players, and the direction the program is headed.”
So where did this number come from? Certainly not University of Miami billionaire booster John Ruiz, whose name became widely known after Hurricanes basketball player Isaiah Wong demanded more NIL money from Ruiz and threatened to transfer if he didn’t receive it. After such a high-profile story, the NCAA spoke with Ruiz about his NIL deals and sponsorships with Miami student athletes, but he has continued to insist that every deal is above board and in line with NCAA regulations.
Which is why it wouldn’t make sense for this one not to be, especially as he’s already under scrutiny from the governing body of college sports. And $9.5 million is a lot — way more than we’ve seen Ruiz offer any other athlete.
So who leaked that number, along with the rumor that Rashada had “left millions on the table” by turning down an offer from the University of Florida, partnered with an $11 million guarantee from the university’s Gator Collective? Per multiple sources, it appears to be none other than lawyer Michael Caspino, who represents Rashada and also brokered the famous Tennessee $8 million deal for Nico Iamaleava, and spoke to On3 about this near-nine figure deal.
That $8 million came before the NCAA cracked down, though, and it appears that Caspino did not exactly think this one through. In May, they released a new set of guidelines specifying that boosters and collectives could not be involved in recruitment, and could not have any sort of communication with recruits prior to commitment. In Caspino’s statement to On3, by telling the world that Rashada turned down a “higher offer” for Miami’s offer, he’s implicating both schools, Ruiz, and even possibly Rashada himself in a direct violation of NCAA NIL rules.
Ruiz and the Gator Collective have both solidly denied that they had any contact with Caspino regarding Rashada or with Rashada himself about these $9.5 million and $11 million deals that are floating around the rumor mill, despite Caspino’s statements to On3 declaring otherwise, and a tweet declaring that the collective was lying. The Gator Collective and a Florida employee actually asserted that Caspino had repeatedly reached out to them, but that they had refused to engage with him, a statement made more interesting by Caspino’s public trashing of the collective following Rashada’s commitment announcement.
So this leaves us with a lot more questions than answers. Is Caspino just lying about the numbers and the deals, making shit up as he goes along as a form of self-promotion and name recognition for his athletes? Or is he breaking explicit NIL guidelines by brokering deals prior to commitment during athletes’ recruiting periods? He’s either lying or violating the NCAA rules — neither of which look so hot for him right now, as his only defense at the moment appears to be accusing everyone else in the situation of lying, which would then mean that he was, in fact, breaking NIL guidelines. Admitting to stretching the truth might be a better move here for Caspino, whether or not he spoke with boosters and collectives during Rashada’s recruiting period, to protect himself, the athlete, and his relationships with other schools going forward, but that doesn’t look like the move he’s going with.