Letter of Intent (NLI)
basic premise of the National Letter of Intent (NLI) program is to
provide certainty in the recruiting process. Most colleges that offer NCAA
Division I and II athletic scholarships use the NLI. Ivy League
institutions and the service academies (Army, Navy, etc.) participate in
Division I athletics but offer no athletic scholarships.
No Division III schools, NAIA schools, junior colleges or
preparatory schools are members of the NLI Program. However, many NAIA
institutions and junior colleges do use a Letter of Intent, implemented
either by the national association, their individual conferences, or even
actuality, the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA),
not the NCAA, administers the
National Letter of Intent Program. Since its birth in 1964, when its
members included seven conferences and eight institutions, the membership
of the NLI Program has grown to include over 50 conferences and 500
the National Letter of Intent, in effect, ends the recruiting process.
Member schools agree to not pursue a student-athlete once she signs
an NLI with another institution; however, in actuality, not all college
coaches abide by this part of the agreement. After signing an NLI, the
prospect is also ensured an athletic scholarship for one academic year.
An institutional financial aid agreement accompanies the NLI.
If the student-athlete does not enroll at that school for a
complete academic year, she could be penalized, with the possibility of
losing up to two seasons of eligibility.
each academic year, the early signing period is the first of two
designated time periods during which a recruit can sign a National Letter
of Intent. It lasts for one
week in November. Although a college can offer a scholarship before
November, the recruit cannot sign that official letter until the early
signing period. Without a doubt, colleges want their top recruits to sign on
the dotted line during the early signing period.
year, more women’s basketball athletes commit during the early signing
period. They then have one of
the most stressful decisions of their lives out of the way, and they can
relax and enjoy the rest of their senior years.
Some feel pressured that if they do not sign early, their
scholarships will be offered to others, especially if they do not have
stellar senior seasons. They may also worry about injuries. However, they
have the chance of increasing their scholarship opportunities by waiting.
Proponents of the late signing period argue that girls do not have enough
time to get to know coaches and programs by November.
The late signing period
is the other only time on the recruiting
calendar during which a recruit can sign a National Letter of Intent for
an NCAA institution for the following academic year. The late period runs
from mid-April to mid-May.
through Thursday of the early and late signing periods, as well as the
time surrounding the NCAA Women’s Final Four, are dead periods.
With the exception of telephone calls, email, and snail mail
correspondence, no recruiting activity may take place during these times.
NLI agreement is null if a student-athlete signs it on a day outside of
the early or late signing period. During
the signing period, a college coach or representative cannot hand-deliver
the NLI off-campus to a recruit. The
NLI can be delivered via regular mail, express mail, courier, or fax, or
while a recruit is on campus for an official or unofficial visit.
student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent with an institution and
not with a specific team or coach. If
the coach who recruited her leaves, the NLI is still valid and she is
still bound to the school for one year.
a high school prospect signs a National Letter of Intent and then changes
her mind, it’s not as easy as just signing another piece of paper.
If she does not attend the school with which she first signed, or
if she does not satisfy the terms of the NLI Program, she loses two years
of eligibility at the next NLI institution.
Although she can receive athletics aid and/or practice at another
NLI school, she must sit two years “in residence” at that college.
However, if the school that she left agrees to enter into a
Qualified Release Agreement, the penalty is reduced from two years to one.
The original school is not required to provide the student with the
Qualified Release Agreement. However, many coaches will grant a release if
a player wishes to leave.
is a big difference between the National Letter of Intent and other
Letters of Intent, such as those used by NAIA schools or junior colleges.
If a recruit signs an NLI and later decides to instead enroll at an
NAIA institution or junior college, there are no penalties.
The reverse is also true – if she signs a Letter of Intent at an
NAIA school or junior college, she can change her mind and later sign a
National Letter of Intent without having to sit out for a year.
Only after signing an NLI and then changing from one NCAA Division
I or II institution to another would she lose a season or seasons of
a prospect signs a National Letter of Intent, she is guaranteed athletic
financial aid for one academic year at that institution and nothing more.
She does not automatically get quality playing time. In fact, she
is not even assured a spot on the team roster.
By attending the college with which she signed for at least one
academic year, and not just by completing one playing season at that
school, she satisfies the NLI. Unlike
institutional athletic scholarships, which do need to be offered and
renewed every year, an athlete only signs a National Letter of Intent
recruits do not have to sign a National Letter of Intent, most do. Once
they do, the program that they have signed with must give them a
scholarship the next year, and other NLI schools can technically no longer
rules state that after a prospect signs a National Letter of Intent, the
school with which she signed can have an unlimited number of contacts with