False promises and unrealistic expectations have been a part of college football recruiting for as long as coaches have been touting their programs in living rooms across America.
Playing opportunities and the road to the NFL are being touted as ever, but now there are lucrative endorsement deals being handled by the collective groups. There is also a greater likelihood of feeling upset after signing a National Letter of Intent.
When college football’s traditional winter signing period opens Wednesday, Jaden Rashadah will be among the unsigned. The four-star quarterback from California signed with Florida in December but asked for and was granted his release after an endorsement deal with a group potentially worth more than $13 million fell through.
The ill-fated deal between Rashadah and the Gator pool—the deal that helped convince him to back out of an earlier verbal commitment to Miami and showcase the name, image, and likeness of a group that works with Hurricanes athletes—should be a cautionary tale for recruiters in an era of nothing.
said Blake Lawrence, CEO of Opendorse, a company that works with schools and groups on NIL compliance and other services. “What is magnified with the guidance situation is that the promises of independent third parties influence where children decide to go to school.”
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The NCAA lifted the ban on athletes cashing in on their fame in 2021. While the association still has rules in place that make it unacceptable to use the NIL as a recruiting inducement, patchwork state laws and fear of legal challenges have prevented the NCAA from creating detailed, uniform regulations that apply.
The rise of groups, operating outside of the school and its athletic department but ideally in its own interest, prompted the NCAA to make it clear that groups—like individual boosters—could not participate in the recruiting process.
But the lines are blurring as coaches try to present potential NIL opportunities to recruits without offering guarantees.
Well-trained NIL coaches say things like this: “I can’t promise you anything. But what I can share is that the player in your position on our campus is currently receiving XYZ,” Lawrence said.
Coaches and sports administration personnel can support groups that publicly support athletes, although they cannot raise money directly. This easily allows recruiters to identify groups most closely associated with the schools they are after.
However, many who run groups tread carefully when it comes to contacting recruiters.
“They can reach out to us,” said Gary Marcinek, president and CEO of Cohesion, a NIL group that works with athletes at Ohio State. “Honestly, I avoid those conversations because it’s a fine line between sharing information and seduction.”
Mike Caspino, a Niles attorney who has worked with several college athletes on group deals—including Rashad with Miami—sees it differently.
He said that the difference in recruiting the stadiums that are located inside and outside the bases is due to the semantics. Ideally, schools would be directly involved in NIL deals rather than having an outside entity with little accountability representing their interests.
Caspino said the Rashada/Florida situation indicated systemic problems with a lack of recruiting.
“Like the lack of proper representation on both sides, like the lack of documentation, like we need to treat these business deals as they are,” Caspino said. “And in any business transaction, we will have a contract that specifies everyone’s obligations and the benefits that everyone gets from the contract. And we don’t do that.”
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The truth behind the rhetoric, Lawrence said, is that most groups are underfunded to meet the demand for NIL deals.
Todd Perry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said coaches worry about groups that dictate which players they can recruit.
“They have no control over some of the processes that are going on and who you’re going to get,” Perry said. “And so you don’t even get the (players) you want.”
Perry said that most coaches prefer teamwork with players who are already well known on campus.
“Now you have this external entity that basically puts value on the players, and you can’t even control the value of what happens,” he said.
The implications of Rashadah’s repeal should cause schools to closely examine the groups they support, said Mitt Winter, a Kansas City-based sports attorney.
“The moral of the story is the combinations, you need to focus on your deals with the current athletes and help them with their zero chances,” Winter said. “And you leave the hiring to the coaches.”