Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, has written an excellent piece on the National Letter of Intent and Eddie Vanderdoes, a high school football player who will likely lose a year of NCAA eligibility because he decided to attend UCLA after signing a NLI to attend Notre Dame. Staples provides an interesting comparison between men’s basketball and football:
So why does anyone sign this document?
Simple: leverage, or lack thereof. Many of the best men’s basketball prospects elect not to sign the NLI. They sign an athletic aid agreement and retain their rights to be recruited. Basketball coaches accept this because they’ve spent so much time and money recruiting the player, and losing one of a two- or three-man class could be crippling. Football coaches, who sign 15-25 players a year and have 85 scholarship players on their rosters, have more room to dig in their heels. If a player says in January that he won’t be signing an NLI, then a coach can simply drop that player and grab the next one on his board.
Should recruits refuse to sign the NLI?
I have covered the NLI in great detail over the last few years. Here’s how I’ve answered the question of whether a recruit should sign the NLI:
Although all recruits should understand what they are signing, only the absolute top student-athletes have the leverage to risk not signing the NLI. The remaining players risk, by not signing, that schools will fill up scholarship slots with other student-athletes. Although the NLI is at best flawed, and at worst unconscionable, it is still the only vehicle through which a student-athlete can secure, at least to some extent, a scholarship.
Is the NLI Legally Enforceable?
Maybe not, if a court found the NLI to be unconscionable. Check out the article that I posted on this topic here.
Do all schools require recruits to Sign the NLI? How can it be improved?
Brad Wolverton of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that many universities do not require student-athletes to sign the NLI in connection with a financial aid agreement. Wolverton also interviews John Infante (of Bylaw Blog fame) who suggests some changes to the NLI.