What exactly is a National Letter of Intent?

What exactly is a National Letter of Intent?With Signing Day 2011 getting closer and closer, athletes in football, soccer, and track will be signing with their future schools. But even though Signing Day is something that continues to get pushed often throughout the recruiting process, few people actually know what a Letter of Intent is or what it does.

Basically what a Letter of Intent does is it legally binds you to the school you sign with. While verbal commitments mean little to nothing during the recruiting process, signing a Letter of Intent is serious business. At times, schools will let athletes out of their Letter of Intent but others will make an athlete go the Junior College route or prep school route first.

If you have already committed to a NCAA Division I or II school, the school may have already sent you a Letter of Intent. While you cannot legally sign it until 7:00 AM on the date that Signing Day begins, you can at least read through it. College coaches will not be sending you this the day of and expecting it back immediately.

Coaches and administrators at a school should send out the paperwork early, especially if the athlete has been committed for quite sometime. While I am not for sure, my guess is that schools will send out paper work as well to prospects that are considering their school. For example, if a talented running back decides to commit on Signing Day, I would expect that the schools he is considering to have already sent this Letter of Intent. So when he does decide, he doesn’t have any problem signing with that school.

While there are four pages includes with the Letter of Intent, the vital part of this is on the fourth page. This page of the National Letter of Intent (I will now call it an NLI) is where you are likely signing the next few years of your life. It includes your first name, middle name, last name, address, and birthday.

From an administrative view, what makes getting these NLIs out so quickly is the fact that the Athletic Director must sign everyone of these. If there are thirty football players, five soccer players, and a countless number of track/cross country athletes signing, he or she must put their signature on everyone. If not, the NLI is not considered valid.

The part of the NLI that is considered the most important is the signatures. On the bottom of the paper, the athlete and their parent/legal guardian must sign the NLI. If the athlete and the parent are at odds where they want to go, then it is going to be tough having them both sign the same NLI.

I recently read a book called Raw Recruits. This is about basketball in the early 90s and how important recruiting is. Basically they talked about an athlete who disagreed with his parents about where he wanted to go. The parents wanted him to stay close to home at UCLA and he wanted to go to Michigan. After signing his NLI with UCLA, the recruit started saying that his dad had threatened him with a baseball bat to sign it. Eventually, the recruit was let out of his NLI (Which does not happen very often) and he signed with Michigan. This recruit did eventually win a national championship at Michigan while there.

Under the signatures, here is what the NLI reads. “Falsification of a signature or a signature by a party other than the prospect and the prospect’s parent/legal guardian may result in a prospect forfeiting the first year of eligibility at any NLI participating institution.”

Basically what that says is if you forge a signature, you are going to get in trouble. And chances are high that if a parent or an athlete is forced into it, they will eventually go public and complain. That in turn may eventually cause the athlete to miss their first year of eligibility and possibly more.

If you are blessed enough to receive a NLI for Signing Day, make sure to read the entire four pages. If you have any questions, ask a coach at the school you are signing with. It is important to know the situation before signing away at least the next year of your sporting life.

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