What you need to know when signing the National Letter of Intent in the midst of Coaching Changes
Any savvy college sports fan has noticed the recent hiring and firing of many college coaches. The coaching carousel that follows perennial collegiate football programs probably gets the most media attention. Yet, firings and hirings are prevalent at every collegiate level and in every collegiate sport.
Every year I have a few athletes that suffer the effects of the coaching carousel so I want to make sure you are informed so you in case the you are faced with a committment to a college team without a coach you’ll know what your options are and most importantly, some questions to help prevent this situation.
To begin, once a student signs the NLI that student is bound to a one year committment to that college. Its important to note that in the eyes of the NCAA that committment is to the college, not to the coach. Unfortunately, this leaves out the human element; relationships. So a problem arises when the coaches that do the recruiting move on. In many cases that coach is a very influential factor. So when he/she moves on athletes feel duped then want to decommit, but cannot if the NLI has already been signed.
No doubt about it. NLI’s are water tight. The NCAA uses this language in the NLI document to assure the binding agreement is to the college.
“I understand I have signed this NLI with the institution and not for a particular sport or coach. If a coach leaves the institution or the sports program (e.g., not retained, resigns), I remain bound by the provisions of this NLI. I understand it is not uncommon for a coach to leave his or her coaching position.” (http://www.nationalletter.org/nliProvisions/coachingChange.html)
It will be an arduous process to get out of a binding NLI for those who sign but then has a coach leave the program. However, in some cases the NCAA does allow students to be let out of their NLI. It’s a long process that first is reviewed by the NLI Appeals Committee a on a case by case basis (http://www.nationalletter.org/nliProvisions/releaseRequest.html).
So, to help avoid this situation here are a few good questions to ask before committing. Does he/she have a history of staying with programs long term? Also, when you interviewing with a prospective coach ask about how long he/she intends to stay at the school? Lastly, if you are skeptical, ask if its okay that you commit to the college but not sign the NLI?
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. After-all, the next 4 years of your life are potentially tied to this coach.