What is the National Letter of Intent (NLI) program and how does it affect potential D3 student-athletes? The NLI is “is a voluntary program with regard to both institutions and student-athletes. No prospective student-athlete or parent is required to sign the National Letter of Intent, and no institution is required to join the program.” It only applies to NCAA D1 and D2 schools and not D3 schools. (Like most programs governed by the NCAA, the rules are designed with the best interest of the sport and the institution in mind, not the student-athlete.)
Further, “By signing a National Letter of Intent, a prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the designated college or university for one academic year” and “participating institutions agree to provide athletics financial aid to the student-athlete, provided he/she is admitted to the institution and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules.” Most importantly for the institution, once a student signs a NLI, there is “a recruiting prohibition applied after a prospective student-athlete signs a Letter of Intent. This prohibition requires participating institutions to cease recruitment of a prospective student-athlete once a National Letter of Intent is signed with another institution.”
All this info is available at National Letter of Intent website.
Basically what this means is that if you are recruited to a D1 or D2 soccer program and sign a NLI you will #1 receive an athletic scholarship (full or partial) for 1 year (provided you are accepted at the institution), #2 be “off-limits” to any other schools/recruiters after you sign, and #3 no matter what happens you will be bound to complete 1 year at the school with which you sign a NLI and if you transfer to another school that has the NLI program, you have to sit out for a year before you can compete again. (Again, in my opinion, all those provisions benefit the sport/institution, not the student-athlete, but that is for another post.)
What does this have to do with D3 recruiting? In a word— NOTHING. D3 colleges do NOT participate in the NLI program, so the rules and provisions do not apply. First, you cannot sign a NLI at any D3 schools because they don’t have them. The NLI program is a guarantee of an athletic scholarship and D3 colleges do not have athletic scholarships. Yes there is plenty of academic scholarship money, financial aid and grants, but none of that is based on your athletic ability.
Second, since D3 institutions do not participate in the NLI program, there are no consequences when transferring from an NCAA D1 or D2 program to an NCAA D3 program. The general provision when transferring from one NLI program to another, is that the student must sit out a year before being eligible again. If transfer from D1/D2 to D3 however, there is no penalty and a student-athlete is immediately eligible to participate.
The bottom line is this— the National Letter of Intent program is meant for athletic programs where there is athletic scholarship money involved. Since D3 schools do not have athletic scholarships, they do not participate in the NLI program and any rules or provisions do not apply.
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