Going to College Archive

When Should Junior Golfers Sign the NLI?

Understanding the National Letter of Intent (NLI) Program

Before reading this article, please visit the National Letter of Intent website to familiarize yourself with the NLI program. The following introduction is based on information contained on the NLI website.


By signing an NLI, a prospective student- athlete agrees to attend the designated college or university for one academic year. Pursuant to the terms of the NLI program, participating institutions agree to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year to the student-athlete, provided he/she is admitted to the institution and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. An important provision of the NLI program is a recruiting prohibition that is applied after a prospective student-athlete signs a letter of intent. This prohibition requires that participating institutions cease recruitment of a prospective student-athlete once an NLI is signed with another institution.

The NLI has many advantages to both prospective student-athletes and participating educational institutions:

  • Once an NLI is signed, prospective student- athletes are no longer subject to further recruiting contacts and calls.
  • Student-athletes are assured of an athletics scholarship for one full academic year. (If not for the NLI program, a student could find his or her scholarship taken by a more highly recruited student only weeks or days before classes begin.)
  • By emphasizing student-athletes’ commitments to educational institutions—not particular coaches or teams—the program focuses university athletics on educational objectives. The program promotes student- athletes’ academic objectives and helps to sustain the amateur nature of college sports.

Over the years, some of the terms of the NLI agreement have changed, yet the program’s basic goals have remained the same:

  • To reduce and limit recruiting pressure on student-athletes.
  • To promote and preserve the amateur nature of collegiate athletics.

Golf Recruits and the NLI

Prospective student-athletes in the sport of golf have two windows of opportunity for signing an NLI. The early signing period lasts for one week in mid-November. The second opportunity—late signing—begins in mid-April and last until August 1. Prospective student-athletes are not able to sign an NLI prior to their senior year in high school.

Most of the top nationally-ranked junior players sign an NLI during the early signing period. Typically, these student-athletes have made verbal commitments to coaches at least six months to a year (or more) prior to signing and frequently will take an official visit to their chosen school during the fall of their senior year to celebrate their decision and to spend time with their future team and coach.

If multiple coaches all recruit the same prospect early on in the process and the prospect decides to sign the NLI in November, multiple new opportunities will become available for other prospects during the late signing period. Occasionally, a prospect will realize his/her best offer during the late signing period as a result of basic supply and demand principles.

The goal for each prospect is to find his/her “best fit” situation as it relates to selecting a college and golf program. If the process continues through the winter/spring months and the prospect does not sign until April, everything will work out fine as long as the student is happy with his/her final decision. Sometimes a prospect is rushed and does not have the time to carefully consider all of his/her options by November. This is one of the most important decisions in a young person’s life and one that the student-athlete will have to live with for at least four, if not five, years.

Student-athletes also need to make sure they are selecting the best college from an academics perspective. Some recruits sign early before they have been officially admitted to the university they are signing with. This early action can result in a problem if the student fails to score high enough on the SAT or ACT or if the student’s grade point average is too low to be admitted. In these cases, late signing—after the student has been admitted to the university through rolling admissions—makes the most sense.

Remember, the ultimate goal for a prospect is to select a university where he/she can succeed both athletically and academically. To attain this goal, a prospect may have to defer his/her NLI signing until April. Be patient throughout the process and the right opportunity will surface whether in November or April.

Coach Brooks
Red Numbers Golf®

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