Sports Law Blog
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Time to Modify NLIs
Today (February 6th) is the National Signing Day for college football, and all across America high school seniors are formally declaring their intentions to attend specific universities. As part of the tradition, fax machines in football offices are humming as student-athletes submit their National Letters of Intent (NLIs) binding them to their chosen institution. [Here's a link to the 2013-14 NLI.]
In theory, the purpose of the NLIs was to indicate to other schools that the high school student was formally ending the recruiting process, thereby notifying other institutions to cease all efforts to convince him to play football for their program. As we’ve seen repeatedly, this is not necessarily the case anymore.
What is most disconcerting about this process is the fact that many of these recruits are signing these contracts, with the help of their parents if they are not 18, based on a particular coach not the university. However, the NLI is clear that this is not of import. Specifically, paragraph 11 of the 2013-13 NLI states:
11. Coaching Changes:
I understand I have signed this NLI with the institution and not for a particular sport or coach. If a coach leaves the institution or the sports program (e.g., not retained, resigns), I remain bound by the provisions of this NLI. I understand it is not uncommon for a coach to leave his or her coaching position.
However, they are basing their decision on the promises of college football coaches who, surprisingly, have a propensity to stretch the truth if it serves their purposes. Thus, when a coach says “I promise you I’m staying at State University” and then proceeds to accept another job that they perceive to be a step forward in their career, the student is left committed to the institution not the coach. This announcement from a coach could happen while the ink is still wet on the contract.
Unequivocally, each person has a right to pursue any opportunities that they feel benefit their career and their families, but why should the student-athlete not have some recourse if they’ve been misled?
Friend and fellow student-athlete advocate Marc Isenberg (Money Players) doesn't mince words when he wrote this piece entitled "The NLI SUCKS!"
I’d recommend, at an absolute minimum, there be an addendum that reads, in part:
“If there is a coaching change that occurs within one calendar year of the execution of this contract, paragraph 11 is no longer valid, and, so long as I’m in good academic standing, I have the ability to transfer to another institution without losing a year of collegiate eligibility.”