GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Three months after losing blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada over a failed name, image and likeness deal worth nearly $14 million, the University of Florida is revamping and streamlining its fundraising collective.
Florida Victorious formally launched Tuesday with hopes of raising money to fund NIL deals for student-athletes — and ultimately help the Gators get back to national prominence in football and men’s basketball. Florida was one of six Power Five programs (along with Boston College, Cal, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Stanford) to finish below .500 in both revenue-generating sports.
Most alarming, the Gators endured consecutive losing seasons in football for the first time since 1978-79.
Florida Victorious is tasked with supporting the program's planned turnaround. The nonprofit organization will work closely with the school’s University Athletic Association to raise money that should assist all 19 sports, most notably football.
A recent amendment to the state’s NIL laws allows colleges to facilitate opportunities that previously had been against the rules. Now, coaches can facilitate connections between players and business or organizations.
Florida Victorious, founded by Miami businessman and UF alum Jose Costa of horticultural grower Costa Farms, is the next evolution of his Florida Achievement Support Trust. It consolidates the Gator Collective and the more exclusive Gator Guard, which had required a $1 million contribution annually. Other schools, including Notre Dame and Texas, have made similar consolidating moves in recent months.
"The NIL space is constantly evolving around the country, and we’ve seen the impact of strong NIL programs,” Florida Victorious CEO Nate Barbera told The Associated Press. “And now it’s time for us to unify these efforts.
“We see and understand the importance of providing a one-stop shop to our fans for supporting student-athletes and helping Gator Nation gain clarity around how to best support our student-athletes throughout NIL by having one strong organization.”
Florida’s seemingly fractured approach made headlines in January when the Gator Collective agreed to a deal that would have paid Rashada, a 19-year-old California native, nearly $14 million during his college career. The collective defaulted on the contract before Rashada stepped foot on campus, prompting the four-star signee to ask for his release. He ended up at Arizona State.
So far, the Rashada family has not filed a lawsuit against the Gator Collective seeking financial restitution. And the Gators have not heard from the NCAA regarding any potential investigation into what went wrong.
Florida Victorious plans to raise money from the school’s 450,000 alumni with “integrity.” Membership options range from $15 to $250 a month, with more than 90% of revenues going to student-athletes. Offerings include exclusive content providing an inside look at the lives of student-athletes, unique memorabilia and one-of-a-kind experiences like a dinner with members of Florida’s 1996 national championship-winning team at Hall of Fame coach Steve Spurrier’s restaurant.
Florida Victorious also has an advisory board that includes mega-donors Gary Condron and Hugh Hathcock as well as former UF quarterbacks Anthony Richardson and Danny Wuerffel, former Super Bowl winner Trey Burton, UF graduate and ESPN celebrity Laura Rutledge, and former basketball standout and current ESPN analyst Patric Young.
“We need to win on and off the field, and do it the right way,” Barbera said. “We’re building an organization that will make Gator Nation proud to support us.
"And we’re hopeful that in putting all this together, we’ll create an organization that will rally all of Gator Nation to build a really strong NIL organization that does things the right way and supports our student-athletes in their quest to be as successful as they can possibly be.”
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