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Has Perception of the NLI Gotten Even Worse?

Like many NCAA rules and programs, it would be hard to call the National Letter of Intent “popular”. There may be a silent majority which likes the NLI or at least tolerates it. But the public commentary about the NLI is generally pretty negative.

For a long while, that negativity was situational. Popular opinion seemed to be that the NLI’s basic idea was alright, but in certain instances, particularly coaching changes, the NLI was unfair. The advice of many of those same people was for top prospects to not sign the NLI because of the possibility of those situations arising.

This summer, opinion of the NLI seems to have shifted even further against the agreement. Eddie Vanderdoes and Issac Hamilton cite sick relatives as their argument for getting out of the NLI. But Matthew Thomas admits his was simply a hasty decision under family pressure. Yet more than a few people are asking each of the three schools to release the prospects from the NLI.

If these situations, particularly Thomas’s, should be exempt from the NLI, it would be hard to find a situation where the NLI could be enforced. Even a prospect who simply got better can argue he should not be bound by his NLI to a mid-major school, since it will harm his professional prospects. Opinion seems to have moved from “the NLI is generally fair, but not in these situations…” to “the NLI is generally unfair, except maybe in this situation…”.

That puts the NLI (and its cousin, permission to contact) in a limbo where it seems to be increasingly unpopular, but increasingly necessary to establish some sort of sanity in the recruiting process. But the same situations that highlight the need for an overdue rethinking of the NLI are just as likely to result in a stricter, more punitive NLI. And if institutions are not careful, pushing too hard against popular opinion might result in not having an NLI at all.

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