We’ve all seen the pictures in the local paper, high school seniors signing their National Letter of Intent (NLI) to play for a specific university or college. Sometimes there are proud parents in the pictures. Other times, you’ll see team colors or maybe a football. What you won’t see is a coach from the university the student is signing the NLI with.
Why? Because it’s not allowed under the rules. After all, the player is signing to play with the school, not the coach. And if you’re going to sign a National Letter of Intent, you better have a good understanding of the rules and what it is your signing. So the following are five ways to smart about the National Letter of Intent.
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One Must Read
The NCAA administers the National Letter of Intent (NLI) program for the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA). Since I couldn’t find a website for the CCA, it only makes sense to start with the NCAA information. The website includes videos, frequently asked questions, list of NLI schools, and a Quick Reference Guide to the NLI that you can download in PDF format.
Two Personal Examples
Things don’t always go as planned. The Signed LOI, and now find that Fin Aid isn’t doable thread at College Confidential shows the dangers of committing before knowing how much financial aid you’ll receive. The NLI school did release the player from the contract.
D1 Coach Pulling Our Son’s NLI thread at HS Baseball Web demonstrates the problem of the National Letter of Intent provision of the school having the scholarship money available.
Three Ways to Get Educated
The frequently asked questions section on the National Letter of Intent by High School Baseball Web is worth reading. Athnet (NCSA) has an explanation of each provision of the NLI. The NCSA’s Do You Know Everything You Need to About Signing an NLI? has answers to questions you may not have considered.
Four Legal Perspectives
In Revising the National Letter of Intent, Stephen Doyle argues for three basic reforms to the NLI including negotiating because “The NLI’s boilerplate language harms student-athletes due to the unequal bargaining power between the parties to the NLI.”
Wesley Ryan Shelley discusses the issue of oversigning in the Mississippi Sports Law Review in Oversign on the Dotted Line: The National Letter of Intent as a Contract and Problems Concerning the NCAA’s 2012 Oversigning Regulation. He concludes that
Although publicity of these negatively viewed remedies for over-signing increased, the steps taken to avoid over-signing are legal under the NCAA and most conference rules, no matter how morally reprehensible they might seem to be. While the program escapes any official punishment, the only retribution for over-signing comes in the form of the media’s public scorn and potential harm to future recruiting.
In their article The NCAA Letter of Intent: A Voidable Agreement for Minors in the Mississippi Law Journal, Debra Burke and Angela Grube state that “Arguably there is a need for higher standards of fairness in relationships between the NCAA and student-athletes, and NCAA rules fail to separate the interests of student-athletes from the interests of their universities.”
The Connecticut Sports Law website has a number of posts on the National Letter of Intent including National Signing Day: Read Before You Sign.
Five Opinions Worth Reading
Yes, there are more than five but they are all really worth reading. Consider it like extra innings in baseball-free baseball according to my son and husband.
Dennis Dodd asks Sign of the times: Does National Letter of Intent need reform? at CBSSports.com. Spoiler Alert–he thinks yes:
The National Letter of Intent is a voluntary program … Sure, as voluntary as winter conditioning and weeknight film sessions. Miss those and the coach has the option of voluntarily not playing you.
In Why Top NCAA Recruits Shouldn’t Sign National Letters of Intent, Patrick Hruby covers the increasingly common argument that blue chip athletes don’t have to sign. But the example of the player who came up with his own agreement shows where the power really lies.
On SI.com, Andy Staples argues in Eddie Vanderdoes case exemplifies one-sided nature of NLI that the only absolute benefit a player receives from National Letter of Intent is to keep other schools from recruiting.
What makes this so interesting is that Vanderdoes didn’t have to sign the NLI at all. He could have received an athletic scholarship without signing away all of his leverage. Unfortunately, most top recruits aren’t aware that they don’t have to sign a contract tilted ludicrously in favor of the schools.
In High School Recruits Think Twice About Signing Letters of Intent, Ray Glier reports how one high-profile athlete decided not to sign the NLI. However, one high school football coach states the “only top players had the leverage to decline to sign the letter of intent.”
While it may have eventually worked out for the Baylor football players, Robert Webster points out that it didn’t have to in How the Baylor Scandal Exposes Problems With NCAA and the National Letter of Intent.
Rob Dauster in NBC Sports College Basketball Talk provides a basketball example in Once again, the injustice that is the NLI comes to light.
The Truth Behind the National Letter of Intent from the Annenberg Media Center at USC which actually includes an example of a high-profile USC recruit.
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