Signing the National Letter of Intent: What it means

Each year I have athletes that commit and sign during the early signing period so I want to make sure to pass along some important information about the meaning of signing the National Letter of Intent (NLI). To review, early signing dates for 2019 student-athletes are November 14-21 for all sports except football and December 19-21 for football only.

Once a student signs the NLI that student is bound to a one year committment to that college. Take note, the committment is to the college, not to the coach. So keep this in mind when making your final decision.

To make this concept concrete, the NCAA uses this language within the NLI to assure the binding agreement is to the college not the coach.

“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.” (
Now, should a coaching change occur, or if the student-athlete has a change of heart, it will be a very difficult to get out of a binding NLI agreement. However, in very few cases the NCAA does allow students to be let out of their NLI. But the process is long and has to be reviewed by the NCAA on a case by case basis by the NLI AppealsCommittee. (

So, before committing research the coaching history and tenure of the coach. 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 uncertain, 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 the college but not necessarily the coach.

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