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The National Letter of Intent

Behind the Blue Disk


What is a National Letter of Intent (NLI)?

The NLI is a binding agreement between an NCAA school and a student-athlete in which the student-athlete agrees to attend the school for one year and the school agrees to provide financial aid to the student-athlete. The NLI is voluntary and prospective student-athletes do not have to participate to play sports or receive financial aid.

Who participates in the NLI program?

The NLI is available to student-athletes entering an NCAA school for the first time as full-time students, including junior college students transferring to four-year schools. In 2012, 627 Divisions I and II schools participated in the NLI program. Schools in The Ivy League, the military service academies and Division III do not participate.

What is the benefit of signing an NLI?

The NLI guarantees a student-athlete at least one year of financial aid. Signing an NLI essentially puts an end to the recruiting process since participating schools are prohibited from contacting a student-athlete who has already signed an NLI with another school.

What happens if a student-athlete signs an NLI with one school but goes somewhere else?

If a student-athlete signs an NLI with one school but opts to attend a different school in the NLI program, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility and must sit out of competition at his or her new school for a full academic year. There is no penalty if the student-athlete chooses to attend a school that is not in the NLI program.

What happens when a prospective student-athlete signs an NLI and the coach leaves?

The NLI is a contract between a prospective student-athlete and a school, not an agreement between individuals. A student-athlete is obligated to attend the school he or she signed with unless the school agrees to release the student-athlete. If a school entices a prospective student-athlete to sign an NLI by offering an automatic release if a coach leaves, the prospective student-athlete’s NLI may be declared void and the school may face penalties.

How is a prospective student-athlete released from his or her NLI?

The release process consists of a prospective student-athlete submitting a release request to his or her school. If the school declines the release, the prospective student-athlete may appeal to an NLI review committee.

Does signing an NLI guarantee admission to the school?

Each school has its own unique admission requirements, and signing an NLI does not guarantee admission. If the prospective student-athlete is not admitted, the NLI is no longer in effect.

To learn more, visit the official website of the National Letter of Intent: