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Tennessee football could cash in on Florida’s NIL incompetence

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Florida’s buffoonery is a reminder that NIL can go very, very wrong. Jaden Rashada’s departure could have recruiting repercussions for years, and it could benefit Tennessee football.

In a very public dispute, the former freshman Gator quarterback has been released from his letter of intent after his promised NIL funds weren’t available. As it turns out, the Gator Collective is about as dependable as Southwest Airlines.

How bad is this whole situation for Florida? As bad as it can get. The ultimate recruiting sin used to be pulling a scholarship from a high school student. That is now just a part of doing business. Pushing a current player off the roster used to be terrible for a program’s reputation. Now, everyone does that, but promising a player money that isn’t there? That’s bad. Really, really bad.

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If I’m Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, I’m scouting every Florida commitment and prospect. What have they been promised that might or might not be there?

The Rashada incident is a reminder that the current state of NIL needs to evolve. Technically, coaches and administrators aren’t supposed to communicate with NIL collectives. Technically, you’re not supposed to drive one MPH over the limit on the interstate, but you probably do. 

As smooth as things have gone with Tennessee’s NIL initiative, it would be foolish to think that Heupel isn’t consulting with those offering NIL deals to prospects. It may be breaking the rules, but the NCAA has proven it is an all-time champion at making stupid rules. Moreover, there’s no enforcement so roll on. 

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At some point, the miscommunication at Florida may become public. Was it a promise by the coaches or the Gator (Un)Collective that wasn’t kept? Frankly, that’s not going to matter to upcoming prospects that will cast a leery eye toward Gainesville.

The Rashada incident is even more odd considering Gator coach Billy Napier is supposed to be a “detail-oriented” coach. Well, agreeing to a $13-million deal and seeing it through is a pretty important detail. Meanwhile, at Tennessee, Heupel was supposed to be a questionable recruiter. That hasn’t been the case at all.

Tennessee faced a somewhat similar quarterback quandary in the late 1990s when highly rated quarterback Chris Simms committed to the Vols then suddenly backed out of the 1999 class. There was no defaulted financial transaction that we’re aware of, but it did leave the Vols a bit high and dry. Tennessee ended up signing A.J. Suggs, who was rated significantly lower than Simms, whose absence took some of the oomph out of Tennessee’s 1999 class. Look for the Gators to lose some recruiting traction in the coming months, but don’t throw dirt on the Gators yet.

Tennessee followed up that 1999 class with the No. 1 class in the nation in 2000. It was arguably the best class that former UT coach Phillip Fulmer ever signed. Florida could bounce back as well, but Heupel will certainly test that one prospect at a time, and the circumstances are far different.

Fulmer was a proven coach with a championship. Napier hasn’t proven he can balance Florida’s NIL check book.

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