Explanation of the National Letter of Intent, NLI

This page explains each section of the National Letter of Intent in detail. The NLI is a legally binding contract and should not be signed until you have a full understanding of what it is. If you want to see an example of what the NLI looks like, you can see that here.

The document should be sent to you with the appropriate signing period checked. If the NLI has been sent to you before the signing period begins, you must wait until 7am of the first date of the signing period before signing it.

Provision 1 – Initial Enrollment in a Four Year University

This section simply states that you are enrolling in a four year university for the first time. For all athletes signing an NLI directly out of high school you will meet this requirement. The exceptions to this rule are made for 4-2-4 transfers and mid-year junior college transfers in football.

Provision 2 – Financial Aid Requirement

This section ensures that your NLI is accompanied by an athletic aid/athletic scholarship agreement. If you are planning on walking-on or will not be receiving a scholarship you will not need to sign an NLI. To learn more about the athletic aid agreements go here.

Provision 3 – Provisions of Letter Met

This section explains how you will meet the requirements of your NLI. In order to satisfy the terms of an NLI you will need to attend the university for one full year. For junior college athletes you need to attend the four university for one full year or have graduated from the two year college.

Provision 4 – Basic Penalty

If you sign an NLI and do not attend the school you may not go to another school and play for that school for one full year. You may receive a scholarship, but generally schools will not offer you a scholarship until you are eligible to play. In addition, you will lose one full year of eligibility in all sports. There are some cases where you can play right away with a release from the school you signed with; there is more on that process below.

Provision 5 – Early Signing Period Penalties

This section only applies to football players who are being recruited in other sports. If you want to receive a football scholarship, you are not allowed to sign an NLI for another sport during the early signing period for that sport. If you do, you will not be eligible to play your first year of football.

Provision 6 – Release Request and Appeal Process

If you have signed an NLI and would like to break that contract in order to sign with another university, it is known as asking for a 4-4 transfer.  To learn more about the 4-4 transfer process go here.

Provision 7 – Declaring Your NLI Null and Void

This is a list of reasons your NLI could be not accepted by the University you have signed with. It is important to remember, 95% of the time this will not be an issue, but just encase it is important you understand how to avoid these issues.

  1. You do not gain admissions into the university – If you do not get accepted by the university, you will not be receiving your scholarship. Remember, by meeting the NCAA eligibility requirements, you are not guaranteed admission into the school you choose.
  2. You are a NCAA non-qualifier – You will be signing your NLI before you get your final eligibility status with the NCAA. If at the end of the year you are declared a non-qualifier, you will not be receiving your athletic scholarship.
  3. One-Year Absence – If you sign an NLI and do not attend any school for one year you would then be allowed to attend another university if you file for a release with that schools conference office. Your athletic department at the school you will be attending can help you with that process.
  4. Joining the Military or Church Mission – If you join the military or going on a church mission for 12 months or more after signing an NLI, you will be allowed to sign with another school without penalty.
  5. Discontinued Sport – If the school cuts the program for the sport you signed for after you have signed, you will be allowed to sign with another school without penalty.
  6. Recruiting Rules Violations – If it is determined there were recruiting rules violations after you have signed an NLI you will have the choice to continue with your NLI or get a release once you have been reinstated. This process will be handled by the athletic department of your university.

Provision 8 – Recruiting Ban After Signing

Once you sign your NLI all other coaches and universities are prohibited from continuing to recruit you. This means the recruiting process is finished for you.

Provision 9 – 14-day Signing Deadline

You have 14 days from the date you received the NLI to sign it. This does not apply however if you received the NLI with less than 14 days remaining in the signing period. You can check the dates at the top of the NLI document to see if you have the full 14 days remaining to sign.

Provision 10 – Statute of Limitations

This section says the entire contract is void after four years if you do nothing. Do not worry about the section; there are several appeals, releases or penalties that can be served in order to get passed the NLI before a four year period.

Provision 11 – Coaching Changes

You are signing your NLI and athletic aid agreement with the University, not the coach. If the coach leaves, you are still required to go to that school for at least one year. There are opportunities for releases but they are generally not granted. Make sure you want to attend that school and not just play for that coach.

Provision 12 – Coaching Contact Prohibited at Time of Signing

The coach of the university you are signing for is not allowed to be present at the time of signing of your NLI and athletic aid agreement. Additionally, they are not allowed to hand deliver the NLI. The only permissible way to receive your NLI is by fax, email or facsimile.

The Final Page of the NLI

The university you are signing with must have completed the top half of the final page of the NLI. If this information is not complete, you are not signing a valid NLI and you will need to go through the process again. As a recruit you are only responsible for signing the bottom half of the last page. For all recruits under the age of 21 you will need to have your parent or legal guardian sign the document as well.

The NLI is the final step in the recruiting process. These are only sent to recruits who have been recruited and evaluated by coaches for several months or years. If you are not getting recruited you need to take steps to be proactive.

More About the National Letter of Intent


Understanding Athletic Aid Agreements

NCAA Clearinghouse


Author: David Frank

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