Sunday, December 4, 2016
National Letter of Intent
Chances are you have probably heard a student say they are “signing” to play college sports. What exactly does it mean when a student “signs” with an institution? The student is actually signing a National Letter of Intent (NLI).
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) manages the daily operations of the NLI program but the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) governs the program.1 The NLI program began in 1964 with seven conferences and eight institutions participating in the program.1 Today the NLI program includes 650 Division I and II participating institutions.1 The NLI program is completely voluntary to both institutions and student-athletes, meaning institutions do not have to participate in the program and no student-athlete is required to sign an NLI.1
The NLI is actually a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete (PSA) and an NLI member institution.1 By signing an NLI, a PSA agrees to attend the member institution full-time for one academic year, which is equivalent to two semesters or three quarters depending on the institution.1 Additionally, the institution agrees to provide athletic financial aid to the PSA for one academic year.1
Once a PSA signs an NLI, all other NLI member institutions are prohibited from recruiting that PSA.1 If a student-athlete does not attend the member institution full-time for one academic year, the student-athlete will not have fulfilled the requirements of the NLI.1 As a result, the student-athlete will be required to serve an academic year in residence full-time at the next NLI member institution that they attend and also lose one season of competition in all sports. 1
An NLI can only be issued by a member institution on certain dates throughout the year. Further, a PSA is required to sign an NLI within one week of the NLI being issued to them. Otherwise, the NLI will become invalid. The signing dates can vary by sport and are not always the same across the board for every sport. When it comes to Division II institutions, every sport (with the exception of football, soccer, and men’s water polo) can sign PSAs during an early period in November and during a regular period that spans from April until August.2 Football has a separate regular signing period from February until April and can also sign mid-year junior college transfers from December until January.2 However, soccer and men’s water polo only have one signing period from February until August.2
No PSA is required to sign an NLI and no member institution is required to participate in the NLI program. The signing of an NLI binds that PSA to the member institution and prevents all other member institutions from further recruiting that PSA. It also guarantees that the member institution will provide athletic aid to that PSA for at least one academic year. If a student-athlete does not attend the member institution for at least one academic year, then the student-athlete will be required to serve an academic year in residence at the next member institution that they attend full-time.
1National Letter of Intent. About the National Letter of Intent (NLI). Retrieved from http://www.nationalletter.org/aboutTheNli/index.html
2National Letter of Intent. NLI Signing Dates for Prospective Student-Athletes Signing 2016-17 and Enrolling 2017-18. Retrieved from http://www.nationalletter.org/signingDates/index.html