Signing a National Letter of Intent is a pretty big accomplishment. For many players, it’s a representation of the time and effort spent fine tuning their skills as an athlete and a student. Before signing the NLI, a player should fully understand the agreement, so they know what it means for their recruitment and college baseball experience.
The National Letter of Intent program, which is managed by the NCAA, started in 1964 with just seven conferences and eight independent institutions. It has since grown to 957 schools across the Division I and Division II levels. It is a voluntary program for both parties involved; the student-athlete and the institution. A student-athlete is not required to sign an NLI and it is not mandatory for a school to be a part of the program.
The NLI is a binding agreement between the college-bound student-athlete and the NCAA institution. The main purpose of the program is to create more certainty and structure throughout the recruiting process. Instead of relying of word of mouth agreements, this standardizes an official agreement and holds both parties accountable.
Under this binding agreement the following conditions are agreed upon:
- The future student-athlete agrees to attend the school as a full time student for one full year. Typically, this is two full semesters, but for some universities that work off a trimester schedule, potentially 3 semesters.
- The institution agrees to provide the student-athlete with athletic financial aid for one full year.
If student-athletes do not fulfill this binding agreement, they have to spend an academic year of residence at the new institution they decide to attend. As a result, they will potentially lose a year of eligibility. It’s worth noting that there are several exceptions that apply to this rule.
Once a player signs the NLI, other member institutions are prohibited from engaging in recruiting activities with that player. At that point, a player has essentially ended their recruitment. The recruiting process can be pretty challenging, so signing day often comes as a relief to the college-bound player.
The scholarship money agreed upon in the NLI is only guaranteed to the student-athlete for one year. It’s also worth noting that a roster spot is not guaranteed. While extremely rare, there have been situations where a player that signed an NLI was cut from the team his first year at the institution. The NLI simply guarantees that you will receive the athletic financial aid for the first year, whether you are on the team or not.
NCAA Baseball National Letter of Intent Eligibility and Timelines
Prospective college baseball players that will be attending a four-year university for the first time are eligible to sign an NLI. Additionally, if a player is already attending a four-year university and wishes to transfer to another four-year institution, an NLI could be used in that situation as well.
Just because you are being recruited doesn’t mean that you are able to sign an NLI. In order to be offered an NLI you will need to receive athletic related financial aid from the institution. The NLI document will contain the details of the athletic scholarship that you have been awarded. The lack of athletic scholarships at the DIII level excludes them from being a part of the NLI program.
It’s also important to understand the National Letter of Intent signing period for prospective college baseball players. Players can only sign during the designated time, and if signed outside of this period, it will be considered invalid. For prospective college baseball players graduating high school in 2020, the signing period runs from November 13, 2019 through August 1st 2020. In addition to the college-bound player, the letter must also be signed by a parent or guardian 21 years of age or older.
If you are reading this, we hope it means that you already have a couple of offers on the table and you are making sure you understand the National Letter of Intent program before making any decisions. If you aren’t quite at that point yet, make sure you check out our free college baseball search tool.