When many student-athletes sign their National Letter of Intent (NLI) today, they will be become bound to an agreement that refuses to acknowledge the obvious: coaching changes have become a regular aspect of Division I college athletics. The NLI, however, clings to the unrealistic notion that student-athletes make their college choice based solely on the school, irrespective of their prospective coaches.
The NLI specifically contemplates student-athletes requesting releases from their NLIs on the grounds of a coaching change:
Coaching Changes. 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.
The rationale for this rule is that student-athletes should choose a school, not a coach. Of course, this is a practical fiction. Most student-athletes and their families do not simply choose a school or a coach, but consider a variety of factors, including the coaching staff.
Student-athletes should consider the coaching staff, as it will have an undeniable effect on their athletic career. This issue involves more than a student-athlete looking to play in a certain system or be noticed by professional scouts. As I’ve written on numerous occasions, scholarships are 1-year renewable contracts. Accordingly, a student-athlete, playing for the wrong coaching staff, could lose his or her scholarship.
Whether or not you agree with the NLI, its policy on coaching changes should be revised.