What verbal offers and commitments really mean for your athlete

What verbal offers and commitments really mean for your athlete

NCSA Recruiting

What verbal offers and commitments really mean for your athlete


USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

A few college football teams made the news recently for posting some pretty big numbers. The eye-popping stats were not passing yards or red zone scoring efficiency. It was simply the large number of scholarship offers they were making with some teams topping more than 300 per grad year. While this is not a common practice in every college sport or even every college football team, these offer headlines do make things a little fuzzier for parents trying to figure out the difference and significance between verbal offers, verbal commitments, and signing a National Letter of Intent.

What it also points out is that the recruiting process is always evolving and now seems like a great time to review some of the scholarship offer terms and what they really mean. And, what you can do if you and your student-athlete are fortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

Congratulations, you’ve received a verbal scholarship offer

A verbal scholarship offer is simply just that. A college coach in talking to you and your student-athlete offers a scholarship. It’s really important to note that a verbal scholarship offer is not binding, but really more of an agreement that the student-athlete will attend the coach’s school and sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI). At any time, a coach or the student-athlete can back out of a verbal agreement if they so choose. The verbal scholarship offer is made by the coach and not the athletic department, so it is not an official agreement until financial aid papers and the contract has been drawn up and signed.

What it really means

First of all, just know a verbal offer is an exciting event in the recruiting process. Your hard work and determination is beginning to payoff, so take a minute to enjoy the good news. A verbal offer means a college coach is seriously considering you for their team, however, your recruiting journey could be far from over. A coach may make the same verbal offer to other athletes, knowing not all will accept or be eligible. A verbal offer means you are in the running, and getting closer to the finish, but the race is not over.

What you can do next

Most college coaches will want an answer to their verbal offer pretty quickly. They also understand it is a big decision, and it’s perfectly acceptable for a student-athlete and their parents to ask for some time to consider the offer, or you may be waiting to hear from other schools. This marks a good time, since it concerns finances, for parents to be more involved in discussions with the coach. If a coach allows you some time to think about it, thank them for their offer and make sure you get back to them by the agreed upon deadline.

If your student-athlete is active in social media they should announce the verbal offer. When they do, they should refrain from exaggerating an offer, bragging or being boastful. They need to maintain a sense of humility. An honest and grateful post about the offer could stir interest from other teams and other coaches.

Also, if your student-athlete has been in close contact with other college coaches, they should let them know about the verbal offer. Knowing another coach is interested maybe enough for other coaches to start giving your athlete more serious attention, especially if it is a school in the same conference.

And, of course, if your student-athlete gets a verbal offer from the coach at a school high on their target college list, they will want most likely want to respond with a verbal commitment.

What it means to make a verbal commitment

A verbal commitment is when your student-athlete states they are committed to a school before they sign (or are able to sign) a National Letter of Intent (NLI). They can make a verbal commitment at any time. Just like a verbal offer, it’s important to remember a verbal commitment is in no way a binding agreement for an athlete or a college.

READ MORE: Five most common questions about verbal commitments

What it really means

Most student-athletes will commit to a college early because it helps make their recruiting process easier. It’s one way to let other coaches know they are no longer interested. For most sports, it’s a signal to college coaches to stop recruiting them. A verbal commitment means your student-athlete can now focus less on recruiting and more on finishing high school.

Your student-athlete might also commit to a school because a coach has extended an offer with a deadline. For example, a coach may verbally offer, “I would like to offer you a scholarship, but I need to know your decision within two weeks.” Coaches will do this because they are under pressure to lock down recruits as soon as possible.

What you can do next

First, it’s always good to back up your verbal commitment with a written letter or email to the coach. Remember, nothing is guaranteed at this point.
As you make your verbal commitment, you will want to make sure to remain on good terms with other coaches (schools that you had prior contact with or had received an offer.) Your situation (or the coach’s) may change. If that is the case, this provides you a better opportunity to follow up with those schools if needed.

Also, have your student-athlete follow up with the coach after their verbal commitment. They can let the coach know about any progress they are making academically and athletically. Have your athlete keep their social media posts in check. Hopefully, they have heard enough stories about offers disappearing over one wrong post.

Signing a National Letter of Intent

The National Letter of Intent or NLI, is the document you’ve been waiting for. This is the official commitment by your athlete to a college or university.

What it really means

An NLI is a legal, binding contract. It something you are going to want to fully understand before signing it. Your athlete’s new coach and representatives from the school can help answer your questions or concerns when it comes to signing the NLI. It goes without saying that this is a great life-changing moment that also means your athlete has reached the end of their recruiting journey.

What you can do next

No one makes it to an NLI signing without the help of others. Make sure your athlete thanks all of the coaches, teachers, counselors, teammates who helped them along the way. Then, get them ready to join a very select group of athletes competing at the college level.


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