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. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle 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.
This fall, thanks to extended National Letter of Intent (NLI) signing dates, college coaches will be looking to wrap up their senior recruiting classes before the holidays. While football and basketball still observe brief early signing periods followed by longer regular signing periods, every other D1 and D2 sport will now feature one combined period from November 14 to August 1, 2019.
In the past, most NCAA sports had split signing periods. If student-athletes didn’t sign their NLI with a school during the early signing period, they had to wait months until the regular period rolled around. For example, last year, recruits who didn’t sign in November had to wait five long months until April to sign.
What does this mean for college coaches?
Once the floodgates open on November 14, you can be sure coaches will make a push to get their recruiting class squared away as soon as possible. The prolonged period gives coaches more time to lock down their top recruits before competing programs can swoop in and turn their heads with a late offer.
Last year’s college football recruiting shakeup could be a reliable indicator. According to NCAA data, 90% of FBS recruits and more than 70% of the country’s top 250 prospects took advantage of the newly-established early period to sign their NLI in December.
What does this mean for high school seniors?
Less uncertainty. Received an offer and ready to make a commitment? Sign your name on the dotted line. Still holding out for an offer from your top school? The extended signing period gives coaches motivation to complete their recruiting classes sooner. This means you’ll quickly know one way or another. Keep in mind—if you get an offer and decide to wait for a better one, the coach making the offer may question your commitment and move on to another student-athlete.
Here’s a look at this year’s signing dates:
2018-19 NLI Signing Dates
|Sport||Initial Signing Date||Final Signing Date|
|D1 and D2 sports except basketball or football (regular period)||Nov. 14, 2018||Aug. 21, 2019|
|D1 Basketball (early period)||Nov. 14, 2018||Nov. 21, 2018|
|D1 Basketball (regular period)||April 17, 2019||May 15, 2019|
|D1 Football (early period)||Dec. 19, 2018||Dec. 21, 2019|
|D1 and D2 Football (mid-year JC transfer)||Dec. 19, 2018||Jan. 15, 2019
|D1 and D2 Football (regular period)||Feb. 6, 2019||D1: April 1, 2019
D2: Aug. 1, 2019
What happens when you sign the National Letter of Intent?
Receiving a verbal scholarship offer is exciting, but nothing is official until you sign the NLI. While you’re allowed to sign an NLI before you receive your amateur certification from the NCAA Eligibility Center, you must complete your eligibility process and meet the school’s admission requirements. Before you put ink to paper, make sure you fully understand what you’re agreeing to. Here are three things you should know about signing the NLI.
Your student-athlete has committed to one year at that school. There’s no need to sign an NLI after their first year. It is the school’s responsibility to let student-athletes know if their scholarship is being renewed after the first year.
The NLI is a binding agreement between the student-athlete and the school where typically the school pledges to provide an athletic scholarship for that year. The NLI and financial aid package are two separate documents. You will need to review both with your student-athlete, and they will need to sign both.
Congratulations! Your student-athlete’s recruiting journey is over. No other schools can continue to recruit them. Keep in mind the NLI is a legal, binding contract. If you change your mind, for any reason, you must ask the school to be released from the program.
There’s a lot to do and remember, so as the next signing day approaches, you can find answers to most of your questions here: National Letter of Intent and National Signing Day