A national letter of intent (NLI) is signed by a student-athlete who agrees to attend an NCAA school in exchange for athletics financial aid. The student will only receive the scholarship if they participate in one academic year at the institution.
An NLI includes the name of the school, the sport the prospective student will be participating in, the signature of the director of athletics, the name and contact information of the student, their NCAA ID, DOB, and their signature. If they are under 21, their parent or legal guardian must sign as well.
A National Letter of Intent is a voluntary form sent to student-athletes to bind them to one year of academics and a one-year athletics scholarship opportunity. It’s important to note that students aren’t required to sign one to participate in their sport or receive financial aid.
Many institutions participate in the NLI program, and the letter can be beneficial for both them and the prospective students for the following reasons:
- Student-athletes are guaranteed an athletic scholarship for one year, and other colleges are no longer allowed to recruit them. This enables athletes to focus on their upcoming academic performance and athletic role at the institution.
- Colleges and universities benefit from securing the player for their athletics program and having the student commit to the academic institution.
An NLI and a financial aid agreement will be sent to prospective students via mail (express, courier, or regular), email, or fax. The National Letter of Intent website provides updated official documents for institutions; the image below is provided as an example.
The signing requirements are a crucial component of National Letters of Intent. The NCAA Eligibility Center and the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) have designated specific dates when student-athletes can sign an NLI. Signing outside of the established dates means the letter of intent will become void.
For up-to-date signing requirements, prospective students can refer to the National Letter of Intent website.
A National Letter of Intent can be used to recruit student-athletes in the following enrollment situations:
- A student enrolling at a 4-year college or university for the first time.
- After already attending a 4-year college and a 2-year college, a student enrolling in a 4-year college/university (referred to as a 4-2-4 transfer).
Student-athletes can sign an NLI before they receive their certification from the NCAA Eligibility Center. However, if they are determined to be a nonqualifier, the letter of intent becomes void. Signing a letter of intent also does not mean they are automatically admitted to the institution; they must pass all normal admissions requirements to maintain their NLI agreement.
The NLI must be accompanied by an institutional financial aid agreement that lists the total amount of the scholarship. The athletics aid can only be for one year, except in the case of Division I athletes, who may be awarded multi-year financial aid. The student must meet all applicable university, conference, and NCAA regulations to obtain of financial aid.
Since an NLI is a binding contract, the only way a student-athlete can get out of their obligations is by completing a release request form, which can be completed online through the NLI website.
The signing institution has the right to deny the release, meaning that the student must attend school and participate in their chosen sport. Students are given two chances to appeal the request denial to the NLI Committee.
Refusal to attend the institution or enrolling in a different NLI-participating college typically results in the following penalties:
- The student is forced to complete one academic year in residence at the original institution.
- The student is forbidden from competing in any sport at the new institution for one year.