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John Ruiz wants to be very clear that he is not a booster by NCAA definition. That notion will be very important should he choose to take legal action against the college sports governing body, as he is threatening to do.
Ruiz, an NIL sponsor for the University of Miami, bankrolls a large number of athletes on multiple teams through his companies LifeWallet and Cigarette Racing. The billionaire businessman set aside more than $10 million in funds for NIL deals alone and focuses most of his attention on the Hurricanes.
Among the athletes that are on his payroll are Haley and Hanna Cavinder. The Cavinder twins, who star for the women’s basketball program, have more than four million followers on their TikTok account, with more than 500,000 followers each on Instagram.
Their brands are worth nearly $1 million each (at least) in the era of NIL opportunities. Despite their large NIL portfolio with multiple big-name brands, their relationship with Ruiz — before officially transferring to Miami from Fresno State — led to NCAA sanctions that were announced at the end of February.
Ruiz is a big target of the NCAA. The organization recently announced a crackdown on booster involvement in Name, Image and Likeness. To some extent, Ruiz was the basis for the new rules.
He was also heavily involved with the Jaden Rashada saga.
However, the Florida-based CEO and attorney is not going to lay down quietly. During a recent conversation with Pete Nakos of On3 Sports, Ruiz said that he plans to file a lawsuit against the NCAA in the next 10 days.
It will revolve around the NCAA categorizing him as a booster, something that he says he is not.
The categorization of me as a booster is legally incorrect.— John Ruiz, via On3 Sports
The NCAA defines a booster as the following:
Boosters, referred to by the NCAA as “representatives of the institution’s athletic interests,” include anyone who has:
- Provided a donation in order to obtain season tickets for any sport at the university.
- Participated in or has been a member of an organization promoting the university’s athletics programs.
- Made financial contributions to the athletic department or to a university booster organization.
- Arranged for or provided employment for enrolled student-athletes.
- Assisted or has been requested by university staff to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes.
- Assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student athletes or their families.
- Been involved otherwise in promoting university athletics.
John Ruiz says that he does not meet that definition.
His case will center around the fact that he does not meet the NCAA’s qualifications for a booster because his company reached financial agreements with athletes for their NIL. Ruiz has also signed athletes from Florida International. Is he an FIU booster?
What happens if he approaches an athlete at another Florida-based program, like Florida State or Florida? What if he signed an athlete at Alabama? How would he then be classified?
Those are the questions Ruiz wants answered, which are at the center of his legal case.
To some degree, the NCAA may welcome a lawsuit. It might open up a larger can of worms that gives the organization access to documents and filings that it previously may not have been able to obtain.
But Ruiz has to sue first!