Signing Day Brings National Letter of Intent (NLI) into Focus

Watching the Under Armour and U.S. Army high school All-American football games over the past weekends served as a reminder that National Signing Day is upon us.  February 3 is the day that many high school athletes will sign the National Letter of Intent (NLI): a one-sided agreement that heavily favors schools over student-athletes.  The majority of these student-athletes will sign on the dotted line without assistance of counsel.

The inherent problems of the NLI have been covered in some detail by Connecticut Sports Law.  We looked at it in terms of coaches, such as Boston College’s former head Jeff Jagodzinzky (Jagodzinski Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (Should Memphis Recruits Be Allowed to Follow Calipari?); in terms of whether a student athlete should sign the NLI: (National Signing Day: Beware of the National Letter of Intent); and in terms of enforceability (CTSportsLaw Mailbox: Is the National Letter of Intent Legally Enforceable?) and assistance of counsel (Talk to My Lawyer: 3 Situations Requiring Counsel in Collegiate Athletics).

Nevertheless, the NLI continues to make legal news.  A North Carolina student-athlete has filed a lawsuit seeking to void the NLI on the grounds that she signed it, committing to Western Carolina, as a minor.  The student-athlete’s attorney, Richard Gusler, has struck a familiar chord:

“It would seem to me, looking at the letter of intent and the manner in which the NCAA works, it’s pretty clear the emphasis of the NCAA in the letter-of-intent system is to protect colleges and not the kids. That’s why we have laws in North Carolina to protect minors, and we intend to take full advantage of those laws.”

Luke DeCock of the Charlotte Observer correctly points out that these types of situations are seen frequently in the music and entertainment business.  DeCock also points out the inequities involved with coaches.  Coaches are free agents (See Lane Kiffin) and their contracts are not strictly enforced.  Players, recruited by those same coaches, are held to contracts that they signed, sometimes as minors, most times without assistance of counsel, with no opportunity for negotiation.

Speaking of negotiation, what about the escape clauses that Calipari inserted into some of the NLIs with players he recruited?  The NCAA has disallowed such provisions by forbidding the additional of any additional terms to the NLI. 

It appears that the NCAA wishes to maintain the NLI as a one-way street.

Thanks to Connecticut Sports Law reader Eric for sending me the links to the stories detailing new developments in the  NLI.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Signing Day Brings National Letter of Intent (NLI) into Focus […]

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  4. […] Signing Day Brings National Letter of Intent (NLI) into Focus […]

  5. […] 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: […]

  6. […] Signing Day Brings National Letter of Intent (NLI) into Focus […]

  7. […] Signing Day Brings National Letter of Intent (NLI) into Focus […]

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