National Letter of Intent
The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is something you will have to sign in order to go to college. This is for many athletes the moment they have been waiting for, signing The National Letter of Intent officially commits you to the school you are signing to. But what exactly is it and what is the purpose of signing it and how will it benefit you?
What is The National Letter of Intent?
The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a commitment between you and the collegiate institution. The National Letter of Intent is not issued to prospective student athletes without a scholarship. An athlete who has been invited to walk on the team, but has not been granted an athletic scholarship is not required to sign the NLI.
The National Letter of Intent is to bring assurance to the recruiting process. Even though the NLI can be viewed as a complex process, in reality it isn’t that complicated. If you are eligible for financial aid and eligible to compete under the NCAA rules then you are able to receive an athletic scholarship and you will need to sign the NLP. Some coaches will allow prospective student athletes to sign the NLI without an athletic scholarship and then the coach will not file the NLI with the proper authority because the NLI is invalid. Why would a coach do this? Because many students athletes think of the NLI as a prestigious thing and coaches don’t want their future athletes feeling inadequate. If you are not going to receive a scholarship and the coach asks you for your NLI it’s just for show, you may sign it, but you don’t need to.
The National Letter of Intent Association
To National Letter of Intent is not associated with the NCAA. The NLI was created by the Collegiate Commissioners Association as protection for the university. When you sign for an athletic scholarship this is your protection that the college or institution is going to provide you an athletic scholarship for that specified period of time. The NLI is the college institutions protection that you will attend that particular institution for at least one full academic year.
When you have signed the NLI with a college or institution, other colleges and universities that participate in the program are no longer permitted to recruit you. This also means you are no longer allowed to receive recruitment phone calls, contacts and you are no longer allowed to make other official visits to other schools. The NLI is a voluntary process for colleges and universities, however more than 500 Division I and Division II participate in the NLI program. No Division III, NAIA and NJCAA participate in the NLI program, however, over time this could change. In order to find out and keep up to date, a complete list can be found on the NLI website.
If you are under the age of 21 then your parent or legal guardian is required to sign the NLI. This rule applies even if you don’t currently live with your parents or guardian. If your parent or guardian lives in a different location to you there is no need to worry. You can get your parents or guardian to sign the NLI by faxing, scanning the document and/or emailing it to them and then having them send it back to you in the same way. You can also post the document if you wish, but this may take longer. Make sure you make three copies of the NLI, keep one for yourself and send the other two back to the school. The college or institution will be responsible for forwarding at least one copy to the conference office. The NLI is a contract document, so before you sign it make sure that you want to attend the school on scholarship. If this is not the school you wish to attend don’t sign the document otherwise you will have implications later. By this time, you and your family should have already decided this is the right discussion for you, but you must be certain this is the school you wish to attend.
If you do sign the NLI you can meet the obligations of the document in one of the two ways:
– Participate in one full academic year.
– Graduate from a junior college if you signed an NLI during your senior year in high school or during your first year of junior college. This means that during your last year of high school or during your first year of junior college, you can attend a different college then participate in the NLI system without implications if you graduate from a junior college first!
Remember you don’t have to sign the NLI to receive a scholarship as discussed before, but many coaches require you to because it puts you in a binding contract with the school for one full academic year. Remember verbal commits are just verbal it does not bind you to the school officially, when you sign the NLI the college placement will be official.
In many sports when a verbal commitment has been made by the prospect, coaches from other schools may no longer contact you as said before, but I mention this point again because this scenario is true for many sports but major college sports such as Football and basketball have a slightly different story. When a prospective student athlete makes a verbal commitment to a school, other schools will increase their recruiting tactics and try to persuade you to change your mind. You are not allowed to sign a second NLI if you decide to transfer from a four-year school to another. You can transfer during your academic year of your athletic career after your NLI agreement has been meet, but not before you are enrolled to the school. If you do decide to transfer to another school you will not be permitted to sign the NLI only a financial aid agreement with the second school.
Many students and parents see signing the NLI as a relief because it means no more worrying about if you are going to receive a sports scholarships or not. When you do sign the NLI with an institution and the coach leaves the school you are still permitted to attend the school. The NLI is not a contract with the coach it’s a contract between you and the institution.
NJCAA and NAIA
What about Junior college and NAIA do you need to sign an NLI? No, you don’t. Only Division I,II schools are members of the NLI program, so you can sign an NLI with a Division I,II school even if you have previously signed a letter of intent with a junior college or NAIA school.
NAIA schools don’t have a National Letter Intent program instead the school determines its requirements, if it chooses to have a letter of intent or not. NJCAA does have a letter of intent program and its requirements are similar to the NLI program. If you do sign a letter of intent with a NAIA or NJCAA make sure to understand the differences between these letters and the NLI program before you sign.
Changed your mind
Many student athletes choose schools because they are excited to train and practice with a particular coach and sign the NLI because of this one factor. Then after signing the NLI you find out that the coach will be leaving the school. If this situation occurs you will not be able to change schools or get out of the contract, the document is binding and you must attend the school for at least one academic year.
If you choose not to attend the school this could result in eligibility penalties ranging from not allowing you to transfer to a different school, losing one year of eligibility and having to sit out for one year meaning you can’t compete. You can request a Mutual Release Agreement, which would allow you to not compete at the school, but this most likely will be denied. You can also request a Release Request Form from the athletics director if you are unable to attend the school due to financial reasons or an emergency. If your request is denied you can appeal to the NLI Steering Committee. This committee has the force to grant a complete or partial release from the NLI agreement.
The other options you have if you do not wish to attend the school to which you signed the NLI for are to sign to a school that does not participate in the NLI program for example NJCAA or NAIA. If you choose this option you will not insure any penalties. You can complete the two years at NJCAA and transfer to a NCAA Division I or II after you complete NJCAA to complete the final two years at NCAA. If you don’t choose these options and choose to transfer to a different NLI school then you will incur penalties unless you receive a waiver.
When is the best time to sign?
Many coaches prefer prospect student athletes to sign to the school during the early signing period. Many athletic programs offer most of their scholarships during this period. For example, if a Football coach awards 10 scholarships in total then around 7 will be awarded during the earlier signing period, leaving a smaller amount for late comers. If a coach does not receive commitments from the prospective student athletes then the coach may choose to save spots to offer scholarships later on. If the sport you compete in has an early signing period there can be some advantages and disadvantages to this process.
Advantages – Signing early
Signing does secure you a place to a school so if you are in your final year of high school or junior college you can focus and enjoy your rest of your time and not have to worry about if you are going to receive a scholarship or not. Another factor to consider is that after signing the NLI, is if you don’t have a great final season in your high school year of junior college year you will still keep your scholarship to the school you have signed with. As the NLI is a binding contract making it very difficult for your or the coach to get out of the contract.
Disadvantages – Signing early
If you are signing to a school that you are not sure about then it will be too late to change your mind and get any other offers from schools later on. If you have been under-performing and get offers from certain schools that are not your first choice and sign to one of those schools, you are committed to that school. If you start performing better later on in the season and attract more colleges interested in you, you cannot sign another NLI. After signing the NLI you must tell coaches you have a contract, trying to back out will cost you in penalties as already discussed.
Generally, signing the NLI in the early signing period is a good step because you don’t have to worry about not going to college. The worst case scenario for many athletes is that they don’t sign in the early signing period and then don’t get offered any scholarships later on, meaning they have to miss a year. Make sure that you are sure about the institution you are signing to when you sign early
The two tables below show the dates for when you can sign the NLI. The dates change every year but are usually only a couple of days different. For future dates go to www.national-letter.org or call 205-458-3000) NLI’s must be signed after 7a.m local time on the initial signing date or any time prior to the final signing date. (Please note this number may have changed)
Now by this point you should know what the NLI is and when you can sign it, all you need to know now is where you can sign it. The signing of the NLI can be private or as public as you want it to be. You may want press conferences at your high school when you sign the NLI or you may wish to sign the document at home. If you do wish to setup press conferences remember that your future coach or booster is not permitted to be at the press event. The college is not allowed to give you or let you borrow any apparel for the announcement. If you and or your parents want to sport the colours of the school of your choice then you must buy those items in the same way, as the public would have to buy them.
You can work with the club or high school to arrange a press conference, you may want to use a room where the press can photograph you when signing the document, and you can also make a speech to tribute all the coaches and family who have helped you in the process.
When you know a time, place and location you need to create a press release to send to the media in your area. A press release is generally a one large paper letter stating your name, school that you will be attending and your athletic statistics. If your local media has been following your high school team they will be interested to know as many statistics as possible. International students may find it easier to sign the NLI at home as high school sports don’t get the same publicity as they do in America.
If you are going to do a big signing the media will generally contact you instead of you contacting them and you can have the media arrange the location, date and time all for you.