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Any attentive college sports fan has noticed the recent hiring, firing or retiring of many college coaches. Usually, the coaching carousel that follows perennial collegiate football programs probably gets the most media attention. Yet, firings, hirings and retirements are prevalent at every collegiate level and in every collegiate sport.

Every year, there are athletes who suffer the effects of the coaching carousel so the purpose of this article is to inform the athlete who is committment to a college team without a coach. Its important to know the options available and most importantly, the questions that should be asked to help prevent this becoming a painful situation.

To begin, once a student signs the NLI he/she is contractually bound to a one year committment to that college. Its important to note that in the eyes of the NCAA the committment is to the college, not to the coach. Unfortunately, this leaves out the human element of relationships. So, a problem arises when the coach that recruits an athlete moves on and no longer coaches at the college. Often, that recruiting coach is a very influential factor in the college selection process. So when he/she moves on athletes often feel duped, then want to decommit.  But its not that simple because once the NLI is signed the NCAA does not allow transfer without penalty.

Without question 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.” (

No doubt about it, to get out of an NLI is an arduous process. However, in rare cases the NCAA does allow students to be let out of their NLI.  Again, it’s a long process that first is reviewed by the NLI Appeals Committee a on a case by case basis (

So, to help avoid this situation here are a few good questions to ask the recruiting coach throughout the recruiting process and before the dotted line is signed.

  • Does the coach 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?

The take home is not to be afraid to ask the hard questions. After-all, the next 4 years of your life are potentially tied to this coach. It would be a shame to sacrifice a year of eligibility to a coach who won’t stay put.


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