High school and junior college athletes being recruited by Division I coaches have not been able to visit D1 campuses or have face-to-face discussions with coaches (except via Zoom or FaceTime) since mid-March.  In fact, the NCAA DI Dead Period has been extended through January 1, 2021.

With this in mind, do you feel comfortable having your athlete sign a National Letter of Intent with a Division I university when the signing period begins on November 11 for all sports other than football?

While accepting a scholarship may be very valuable to your athlete, signing the NLI locks them in to attending that university for at least one full academic year even though they might never have visited the campus and toured the facilities, let alone met the coaching staff in person.

It’s a common misperception that when a recruit is presented with a National Letter of Intent that they must sign that document.

  • However, the NLI is actually a separate document from a school’s official scholarship agreement.
  • The NLI can’t be offered to a recruit unless it is accompanied by that scholarship agreement.

It’s possible for a recruit to sign the school’s scholarship agreement without signing the National Letter of Intent. But what does that actually mean for your athlete?

For one thing, signing the scholarship agreement with a college is a “guarantee” that the college must provide you with that scholarship if you are accepted for admission to that college, enroll and attend classes there, and are certified as eligible by the NCAA.

The potential upside of signing the scholarship agreement but NOT the NLI is that your athlete would not be subject to the NLI penalty for not attending that college for one full academic year should they choose to transfer after just one semester.

An example of why an athlete might choose to transfer after one semester is if the coach who has been the primary recruiter for your athlete leaves for another job before your athlete ever arrives on campus.

On the other hand, the potential downside of not signing the NLI is that it can potentially harm your athlete’s relationship with the coaching staff who recruited them before your athlete ever arrives on campus. The coaching staff might question the athlete’s intentions and full commitment if they don’t sign the NLI. Is there a way to minimize that possibility?

Here are a couple of suggestions for dealing with the uncertainty of the times we are in the midst of when your athlete is being asked (and perhaps pressured) to sign a National Letter of Intent.

One possible option is that your athlete can ask the university recruiting them if they can sign only the scholarship agreement when the signing period begins on November 11. Your athlete can then offer to sign the NLI at a later date AFTER they have had a chance to visit the campus, tour facilities, and meet the coaches in person.

Another possible option is to ask the university if they will provide a written assurance to grant your athlete a full release from the NLI if the athlete changes their mind after visiting campus, or if there is a change in the coaching staff before your athlete enrolls at the university.

Do you have questions?

If you would like to discuss the options described here in a confidential phone consultation, schedule a Scholarship Strategies consult online. Or you can send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call 913-766-1235 to schedule a session.