Despite claims from Billy Napier, Florida Football is lagging behind in NIL

Nov 11, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier looks at the
Nov 11, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier looks at the / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

At his press conference last week, Billy Napier tried to paint a rosy picture of Florida Football. One of the areas he touched on was NIL and he admitted that the Gators had been slow out of the gate raising money in comparison to some other SEC rivals.

But as Florida Victorious prepares to launch a new marketing campaign, a new deep dive into the collective paints a far less optimistic picture.

Florida Football: Show Me The Money

Almost as soon as NIL was the way of the land, the Gators tried to jump into the space with the launching of Gator Collective. It was a mess, highlighted by the failed deal with Jaden Rashada that now has Florida under NCAA investigation.

Florida has done away with the Gator Collective and are now putting their effort behind Florida Victorious.

When asked last week about the NIL efforts of the Gators, Napier admitted that Florida had taken a more conservative approach than others. He also felt Florida is on solid footing moving forward to sign whomever they want if money is the issue.

"We are able to recruit the elite player in the country that everybody wants."

Billy Napier

But that seems to run in contrast with the deep dive that Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel published about Florida's NIL efforts.

Among the people he spoke to was Freddie Wehbe, the Director of Revenue for Florida Victorious, and he paints a far less rosy picture for the Gators.

"We just don’t have enough money to attract talent and win"

Freddie Wehbe

The truth is probably in the middle as high school prospects across the country will state off the record that often times they are leaving money on the table in order to play for one school over another. The same goes for guys who transfer programs.

But if Florida is lagging behind in fundraising for NIL, part of it can be traced to mid-level fan engagement when looking beyond attendance.

Attendance to Florida sporting events across the board is great, and the Gators constantly sold out The Swamp despite a 5-7 season. However, according to Google Trends, the term "Florida Gators Football" is only the 7th most searched SEC team in the last 90 days, and according to Florida Victorious CEO Nate Barbera the Gators have half the collective members as schools like Ole Miss.

Combine that with the perception that Florida fans don't travel as well to things like bowl games as some other fan bases and it creates a challenge for Florida that Gator Nation isn't the type of fan base to just pony up money for the sake of ponying up money.

Because the skeptical fan is going to point to things like two players wearing number three, not knowing when to run out for a game-winning field goal, getting manhandled along the line of scrimmage because the strength coach trains like it is the track team, not knowing how to put 11 guys on the field for a punt, having a backup linebacker matched up against a star receiver for 4th and 17, and calling a double reverse into an intentional grounding as things that no amount of money can fix.

So, while Florida ultimately needs better talent in order to keep up in the SEC, they appear to be in a situation of "Which came first?" when it comes to raising the money needed to get that talent. Most fans seem to be in a wait-and-see mode.

It's up to Napier, Scott Stricklin, and the rest of the Florida brass to break through that barrier to achieve its maximum ceiling.