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NLI Gets an Earlier Expiration Date

Yesterday it was quietly announced, mostly by a few compliance officers on Twitter, that the National Letter of Intent now expires seven days after the date of issue. The NLI also must be filed with the conference office within 14 days of signing. Previously prospects had 14 days to sign the NLI and 21 days to file with the conference.

The biggest impact is likely to be that compliance officers have a bit more work. NLIs for football and basketball players are almost all sent via overnight mail, signed the next day, and faxed/emailed/overnighted back immediately. But prospects in some sports, rowing being the poster child in my experience, tend to commit by signing one of the multiple NLIs they have received and sometimes put their decision off a week or two past signing day. Those NLIs will now have to be reissued more often.

But another issue that might come up more often is when a prospect signs an invalid or “stale” NLI along with the grant-in-aid agreement which typically does not have an expiration date. Brad Wolverton (with some help from myself) found that many BCS conference schools do not require an NLI to be returned with the scholarship agreement to make the scholarship valid.

Both Wolverton and I assumed the situation of the prospect who intentionally signs just the scholarship agreement and not the NLI. But with the NLI’s now-shorter lifespan, more prospects may end up signing perfectly valid scholarship offers along with invalid NLIs. When they learn they may have a guaranteed scholarship but are definitely not tied to the school, how many might resist signing a re-issued NLI?

What this means for coaches is more babysitting of prospects around the signing deadline. Even a committed prospect who might be waiting for a family party or signing day ceremony at their school will be pressured to sign as soon as possible. Uncommitted prospects will feel that pressure even more. And situations where a prospect and his or her parents live far away from each other or even in separate countries will have to be watched more closely by coaches and prospects.

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