ASU quarterback Jaden Rashada (5) throws a pass during a spring practice at the Kajikawa practice fields in Tempe on April 16, 2024.

Jaden Rashada sues Florida’s Billy Napier over NIL deal

Former Florida recruit Jaden Rashada is suing Gators football coach Billy Napier and a prominent booster over a $13.85 million name, image and likeness deal that went awry.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida alleges that they made “false and fraudulent promises” to induce Rashada to sign with the program in 2022.

Rashada initially committed to the University of Miami, where he reportedly had a $9.5 million NIL deal on the table. He flipped to Florida after agreeing to a $13.85 million deal with the now-defunct Gator Collective.

The lawsuit claims that Napier promised a $1 million “partial payment” to Rashada’s father when the quarterback prospect signed his national letter of intent, but that the payment never was received.

“As the first scholar-athlete to take a stand against such egregious behavior by adults who should know better, Jaden seeks to hold Defendants accountable for their actions and to expose the unchecked abuse of power that they shamelessly wielded,” states the lawsuit, according to a copy obtained by USA Today.

Florida booster Hugh Hathcock and a former Florida staffer, Marcus Castro-Walker, are named in the lawsuit along with Napier.

“Once Jaden committed to UF, rather than make Jaden ‘rich’ as promised, these people — with Hathcock leading the charge — changed their tune and went back on their word. The amount of UF-affiliated NIL money available for Jaden decreased drastically,” the lawsuit states.

Florida athletic department spokesman Steve McClain issued a statement on Tuesday.

“We do not comment on ongoing litigation, and neither the University Athletic Association nor the University are named in the complaint. The UAA will provide for Coach Napier’s personal counsel, and we will direct all questions to those representatives,” read the statement.

Rashada ended up withdrawing his letter of intent with Florida and enrolled at Arizona State. He appeared in three games for the Sun Devils as a freshman in 2023, passing for 485 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

He transferred from Arizona State to Georgia for the upcoming 2024 season and has four years of eligibility remaining.

–Field Level Media

Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. poses after being selected by the Arizona Cardinals as the No. 4 pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Fanatics sues Marvin Harrison Jr.

Sports collectibles and apparel merchandiser Fanatics is suing wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., alleging breach of contract, multiple outlets reported.

The lawsuit was filed Saturday in New York Supreme Court against Harrison, who was selected No. 4 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in last month’s NFL Draft.

Per a Sunday report from The Athletic, Harrison initially signed a limited, non-exclusive promotion and license agreement with Fanatics while he played for Ohio State. The parties then negotiated a longer contract with Harrison, which included what the filing called “significant” compensation, with both sides signing off on it in May 2023.

In the lawsuit, reviewed by The Athletic, Fanatics charges that Harrison hasn’t lived up to his end of the contract, despite receiving paychecks last August and October, and that he has denied he had an agreement with the company.

While details of the purported agreement, including his contractual obligations, were redacted in the suit, ESPN reported that a source earlier this month said Harrison agreed to signing autographs and trading cards, providing game-worn apparel and “other marketing opportunities.” The Athletic said Harrison has ignored requests from Fanatics to fulfill that the company says exists.

Fanatics is seeking a jury trial and estimates in potential losses as totaling “millions of dollars.”

Harrison also has not yet signed the NFL Players Association’s group licensing agreement, which is holding up the sale of his licensed jerseys and other memorabilia.

Anyone itching to buy Harrison gear can do so at The Official Harrison Collection, a website that sells autographed jerseys, helmets, photos, mini-helmets and such. There also are limited items signed by his father, Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison Sr., on the site.

–Field Level Media

Clemson running back Will Shipley walks into the locker room before the ACC Championship football game with North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday, Dec 3, 2022. (Via OlyDrop)

Clemson sues ACC over grant of media rights, withdrawal penalty

Clemson is suing the Atlantic Coast Conference, becoming the second school to take the conference to court over grant of media rights.

Clemson filed its suit Tuesday in Pickens County, S.C. Florida State sued the conference in December.

The contention by Clemson is that the ACC claims it owns the media rights of member schools to home games through 2036 — even if a school departs the conference. Clemson also says in the suit that schools must pay $140 million to leave the conference on top of the grant of media rights.

Those factors hinder “Clemson’s ability to meaningfully explore its options regarding conference membership, to negotiate alternative revenue-sharing proposals among ACC members, and to obtain full value for its future media rights.”

Clemson was one of seven schools that reportedly have been investigating a departure from the conference amid a changing college landscape.

Following a new agreement with the College Football Playoff and ESPN, the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference schools are set to receive more than $21 million, most ACC schools will get upward of $13 million, and Notre Dame and Big 12 members will be paid more than $12 million from television revenues.

The Big Ten is expanding by four members — USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington — in the upcoming academic year. The ACC is adding three schools — SMU as well as Stanford and Cal, which left the Pac-12 as members’ departures decimated the conference.

Oklahoma and Texas are leaving the Big 12 for the SEC — the move that triggered a seismic shift in college conferences.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden watches the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Nevada high court to hear NFL’s appeal on Gruden lawsuit

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday is hearing oral arguments on the NFL’s appeal of Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the league.

The NFL is asking the court to reverse a lower court’s decision to allow Gruden’s lawsuit for negligence and intentional interference with contractual relations to proceed in the courts. The NFL instead wants Gruden’s complaint to be dealt with in arbitration, overseen by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is named in the lawsuit.

Gruden filed the suit in November 2021. Wednesday’s hearing was postponed from November, when attorneys, citing a scheduling conflict, asked for the postponement.

Gruden is accusing the NFL of leaking emails he wrote to then-Washington Commanders president Bruce Allen from 2011-18 that were rife with racist and homophobic remarks and highly critical of Goodell. The leaked emails stoked public outrage against Gruden, eventually leading to his resignation as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders — an outcome he said the league manipulated.

Gruden in the suit accused the league of a “malicious and orchestrated campaign” to force his resignation.

The emails surfaced as part of the NFL’s investigation into workplace culture in Washington under its previous owner Daniel Snyder. The leaked emails, found amid 650,000 documents, became the only part of the league’s probe that went public, and Gruden is suing for damages and to find out the source of the leaks.

Gruden resigned with more than six seasons remaining on a 10-year, $100 million contract he signed with the Raiders.

Clark County (Nev.) District Court Judge Nancy Allf denied the NFL’s motion to compel arbitration in May 2022, a ruling the league is appealing to the high court on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 2, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Lawrance Toafili (9) is awarded the ACC Championship MVP trophy after the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Exit strategy: Florida State board votes to sue ACC

Florida State’s board of trustees filed a lawsuit on Friday against the Atlantic Coast Conference alleging “years of mismanagement” and challenging the league’s “draconian” withdrawal penalties.

The suit filed in Leon County Circuit Court claims it would cost at least $572 million for the Seminoles to leave the conference they have called home since 1992.

“The underperformance by the ACC has ramped up dramatically in just the last few years,” Florida State board chairman Peter Collins said. “The ACC has also unfairly — and we believe illegally — sought to prevent members from exploring their fundamental right to withdraw by threatening to impose an astounding and pernicious half-billion-dollar penalty. It’s simply unconscionable.”

The lawsuit claims the ACC failed to fulfill its obligations to generate substantial revenues and to maximize athletic opportunities for its members.

Florida State also argues that the league’s mishandling of negotiations with ESPN deprived its members of tens of millions in annual revenues.

The suit accuses the ACC of restraint of trade, breach of contract and a failure to perform.

“I fully support the Board’s decision to take this legal action against the ACC,” school president Richard McCullough said. “It is becoming painfully apparent that Florida State’s athletic ambitions and institutional priorities are no longer served by the ACC’s leadership.”

The College Football Playoff snub of the unbeaten ACC champion Seminoles earlier this month is seen as the final straw for leaving the conference, particularly since one-loss teams from the SEC (Alabama) and Big 12 (Texas) were selected along with unbeaten Michigan and Washington.

The lawsuit argues that the CFP’s “stunning decision” to exclude Florida State “crystallizes” years of ACC failures.

“The ACC has negotiated itself into a self-described ‘existential crisis,’ rendered itself fiscally unstable and substantially undermined its members’ capacity to compete at the elite level,” the suit says. “In doing so, the ACC violated the contractual, fiduciary and legal duties it owed its members.”

The ACC released a lengthy statement from commissioner Jim Philips and ACC board of directors chairman Jim Ryan.

“Florida State’s decision to file action against the Conference is in direct conflict with their longstanding obligations and is a clear violation of their legal commitments to the other members of the Conference. All ACC members, including Florida State, willingly and knowingly re-signed the current Grant of Rights in 2016, which is wholly enforceable and binding through 2036. Each university has benefited from this agreement, receiving millions of dollars in revenue and neither Florida State nor any other institution, has ever challenged its legitimacy.

“As a league, we are proud of the successes of our student-athletes and that the ACC has won the most NCAA National Championships over the past two and half years while also achieving the highest graduation success and academic performance rates among all FBS conferences, so it is especially disappointing that FSU would choose to pursue this unprecedented and overreaching approach.

“We are confident that the Grant of Rights, which has been honored by all other universities who signed similar agreements, will be affirmed by the courts and the Conference’s legal counsel will vigorously enforce the agreement in the best interests of the ACC’s current and incoming members.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Lincoln Victor (5) is stopped alert short gain by Stanford Cardinal linebacker Tristan Sinclair (8) in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Stanford won 10-7. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington court stays Pac-12 ruling

The Washington Supreme Court sided with the departing members of the Pac-12 on Tuesday, granting an emergency stay that, at least for now, thwarts an attempt by the remaining members — Oregon State and Washington State — to control the conference governing board.

At the end of this academic year, Oregon State and Washington State will be the only schools left in the conference after the other 10 jump to the Big Ten, Big 12 or Atlantic Coast Conference.

Earlier, a lower court granted an injunction that gave the two schools control of the conference and, most importantly, its income. With the stay issued Tuesday, all 12 teams still have a seat at the table.

Washington took the lead in the case on behalf of the 10 departing universities and took the case to the state Supreme Court. The group issued a statement praising the ruling.

“We are pleased that the Washington Supreme Court has put on hold the preliminary injunction that would have given OSU and WSU sole control of the Pac-12 Conference,” the joint statement said. “The decision effectively ensures that all 12 current members will have an equal voice in determining how the revenue our schools earned this year is distributed and utilized while the Court considers our arguments.

“This funding is vital to our ability to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes. The combined earnings of 12 schools during the 2023-2024 academic year should not be unilaterally governed by just two institutions while we all remain members of the Conference.”

Oregon State and Washington State intend to seek a review of the decision, ESPN reported. All parties were given until Dec. 12 to file motions.

“We are disappointed in the Washington Supreme Court Commissioner’s decision to temporarily allow the departing schools to have veto power over Pac-12 board matters while they appeal the superior court’s well-reasoned decision to grant Oregon State’s and Washington State’s request to govern as the Pac-12’s sole remaining members,” spokespersons for the two schools said in a joint statement.

“We did not create or seek these circumstances, but Oregon State and Washington State remain committed to taking aggressive action to protect our universities, ensure accountability and transparency, safeguard student-athletes and the Pac-12 Conference, and preserve our options moving forward.”

Controlling the conference funds would be beneficial to Oregon State and Washington State as they seek to hold on to, and rebuild, the historic conference.

–Field Level Media

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's college football program is being investigated for sign-stealing.

Jim Harbaugh accepts suspension; Big Ten ends Michigan investigation

Officials at Michigan said the university is dropping its appeal of football coach Jim Harbaugh’s three-game suspension from the Big Ten, ending its litigation against the conference.

In exchange, the Big Ten agreed to close its investigation into allegations of sign-stealing.

The university was seeking an injunction that would have allowed Harbaugh to be on the sideline Saturday against Maryland, and the two sides were due in court on Friday.

“This morning, the University, Coach Harbaugh, and the Big Ten resolved their pending litigation. The Conference agreed to close its investigation, and the University and Coach Harbaugh agreed to accept the three-game suspension,” read Michigan’s statement, which added Harbaugh “decided to accept this sanction to return the focus to our student-athletes and their performance on the field.”

The Big Ten suspended Harbaugh for three games last Friday amid an investigation into allegations of sign-stealing and in-person scouting by at least one former member of his staff. At the time, the Big Ten said there was no evidence linking Harbaugh to wrongdoing but that he was suspended as the face of the program.

“The Conference has confirmed that it is not aware of any information suggesting Coach Harbaugh’s involvement in the allegations,” Michigan’s statement read. “The University continues to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s investigation.”

In its own statement, the Big Ten said Michigan’s action is “indicative of the high standards and values that the Conference and the University seek to uphold.

“The University of Michigan is a valued member of the Big Ten Conference and the Conference will continue to work cooperatively with the University and the NCAA during this process,” the statement said.

The Big Ten suspension was only for games, meaning Harbaugh can coach in practice throughout the week. He was not present when No. 3 Michigan defeated then-No. 10 Penn State on the road.

The Wolverines travel to Maryland this weekend and then face No. 2 Ohio State at home, with a berth in the Big Ten title game — and potentially the College Football Playoff — on the line.

Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who led the Wolverines against Penn State, will be the interim head coach against Maryland. A win would give Michigan football its 1,000th victory in school history.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on the ESPN Monday Night Football Countdown set at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Defamation suit against Cowboys owner Jerry Jones dismissed

A defamation lawsuit against Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was dismissed by a federal judge in Texas on Tuesday, nearly eight months after it was initially filed.

Alexandra Davis, who said she is Jones’ daughter, filed the lawsuit back in March against the Dallas owner and two of his associates — lawyer Don Jack and communications consultant Jim Wilkinson.

The suit claimed that Jones, Jack and Wilkinson “initiated a deliberate plan” to paint her as “an ‘extortionist’ and a ‘shakedown artist.’” But on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Schroeder III threw it out, stating in a 36-page order that some of the statements Davis found to be defamatory either weren’t or were in fact true.

Schroeder, presiding in the Eastern District of Texas at Texarkana, also considered Davis a “limited public figure,” meaning that in order for her to win the case, the alleged defamatory statements would have had to of been made with actual malice.

The statements in question were published in two ESPN articles about a lawsuit that Davis had filed in March 2022. In that initial suit, Davis sought recognition as Jones’ daughter, and she also claimed that Jones paid her $375,000 in addition to setting up a pair of trust funds to hide the familial relationship between the two.

In the defamation case that was just dismissed, Davis believed Jones and his associates were attacking her character publicly “based knowingly on false statements and accusations.”

“This case was never about money — it was about a young woman searching for her dad,” Davis’ attorney Andrew Bergman previously said in a written statement. “Their response was to try to destroy her.”

Despite Tuesday’s dismissal of the most recent lawsuit, Schroeder is giving Davis and her lawyers the chance to submit another complaint that proves Jones, Jack and Wilkinson acted with actual malice when making their comments that were published by ESPN.

Bergman has 21 days to submit a revised complaint after only part of the plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.

“We are amending our pleading and we are pleased that the case is moving forward,” Bergman said.

Wilkinson told ESPN in 2022 that Bergman told one of Jones’ lawyers that for the case to be settled, it would cost Jones “Zeke or Dak money,” referring to then-Cowboys stars Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, but Bergman denies any allegations of asking for money in the case.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA;  Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald walks the sidelines during the second quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Fitzgerald sues Northwestern, alleges wrongful termination

Ousted Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald, fired amid a hazing investigation, is seeking more than $130 million in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The suit, filed in Cook County, Ill., names the university and its president as defendants. Fitzgerald contends the school wrongfully fired him for cause, defamed him and intentionally caused emotional distress.

Fitzgerald, a Northwestern alum, wants to be paid the $68 million remaining on his contract, which was due to expire before the 2031 season. He also wants millions for future earnings, contending he won’t be able to find a similar job.

By firing Fitzgerald for cause, the university contends his contract is null and void.

“If there was ever an athletic coach at Northwestern University that should not have been terminated, it was Coach Fitzgerald,” said his attorney, Dan Webb. He contended in a news conference Thursday that the school had ruined Fitzgerald’s reputation without evidence.

Northwestern president Michael Schill said in July that an independent investigation found hazing allegations were “largely supported by evidence.”

The firing came after a player came forward to the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, and revealed that some of the alleged hazing included coerced sexual acts. Fitzgerald is also accused of presiding over a “culture of enabling racism.”

In a statement, per USA Today, the school said Fitzgerald “had the responsibility to know that hazing was occurring and to stop it” but didn’t.

“The safety of our students remains our highest priority, and we deeply regret that any student-athletes experienced hazing,” the school said in part of the statement. “We remain confident that the University acted appropriately in terminating Fitzgerald and we will vigorously defend our position in court.”

Schill suspended and later fired Fitzgerald following the investigations.

At least 13 players have sued the school, describing acts that allegedly took place, including “naked” events. Fitzgerald has been named as a defendant in six of the lawsuits.

Fitzgerald, 48, coached Northwestern from 2006-22, going 110-101 during his tenure. The Wildcats were 5-5 in bowl games.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker watches a play against Central Michigan from the sideline during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023.

Mel Tucker plans wrongful termination lawsuit against Michigan State

Mel Tucker’s attorney informed Michigan State on Thursday that Tucker will file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university.

Michigan State officially fired Tucker for cause on Wednesday following a months-long investigation into sexual harassment allegations. The university said in a letter that his actions with a female contractor left it “subject to public disrespect and ridicule.”

Tucker’s attorney, Jennifer Belveal, responded Thursday by requesting that the school prepare records pertaining to all members of the athletic department and other university employees, “in anticipation of litigation.”

Michigan State’s investigation alleged that Tucker, 51, sexually harassed Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and activist, during what she has characterized as unwanted phone sex in April 2022.

While Field Level Media’s policy is not to name alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault, Tracy agreed to be identified in a USA Today interview and provided hundreds of pages of documentation.

According to Tucker’s attorneys, Tucker and Tracy had “an entirely mutual, private event between two adults living at opposite ends of the country” and Tucker has said the investigation contained “an ulterior motive designed to terminate my contract.”

Wednesday’s termination letter, signed by athletic director Alan Haller, said Tucker’s 25-page response to the allegations did “not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth” in the notice to terminate. Instead, Haller said the response “provides a litany of excuses for your inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined” in the notice.

Belveal called Tucker’s firing an “illegal termination” in Thursday’s letter. She requested Michigan State retain all phone and computer records as well as physical files from athletic department employees, the general counsel’s office and all board of trustees members.

Tucker was one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, signing a 10-year, $95 million contract before the 2022 season. The contract would have been fully guaranteed had the school fired Tucker for performance.

However, it contains a clause that allows Michigan State to fire him, without payment, if he engages in “conduct which, in the University’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule on the University,” according to USA Today.

Harlon Bennett has served as the Spartans’ interim head coach since Tucker was initially suspended without pay Sept. 10. The team has lost both games under Bennett so far.

–Field Level Media