Can Athletes Get Out of an NLI? Recruits Risk a Year of Eligibility

    NLI is a legally binding contract between a college football recruit and a school. But, the contract can be escaped under mitigating circumstances.

    As the early signing period in college football begins, student-athletes across the nation will be signing an NLI. A National Letter of Intent is used as a contract between a school and a recruit, and once the document is signed, the commitment is official.

    The document is legally binding. However, athletes can get out of the contract in exceptional situations.

    What Are the NLI Rules?

    Once a recruit makes their commitment official by signing their NLI, the NLI becomes legally binding, and there are terms to the contract.

    By signing, a recruit must “attend the institution full-time for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).” While a school must “provide athletics financial aid for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).”

    Also, for schools, once the NLI is signed, all other programs must cease recruiting student-athletes immediately. That involves ending all communication other than “an exchange of a greeting” with the player and their family.

    MORE: Will Dylan Raiola Flip Commitment?

    If those terms are broken, then the NCAA can enact a set of punishments.

    If a recruit backs out of the deal, then the potential punishment is that “student-athlete has to serve one year in residence (full-time, two semesters or three quarters) at the next NLI member institution and lose one season of competition in all sports.”

    The potential loss of a year of eligibility is a massive punishment for players just starting their college football careers.

    What Are the Circumstances Where NLI Can Be Broken?

    However, there are circumstances where NLI contracts can be canceled.

    The NLI and the Collegiate Commissioners Association made changes ahead of the 2023 early signing period that give two clear exemptions to the NLI rules.

    Firstly, if a head coach leaves the school an athlete is committed to before the recruit attends school then the athlete is no longer bound by the contract and can apply to be released due to the head coaching change.

    Secondly, an athlete can transfer their NLI to a different school if they have attended a minimum of one academic semester.

    The introduction of the college football transfer portal has meant that how NLIs are used has had to change.

    NLI originally applied to high school recruits. However, from 2023, athletes who have attended college for at least four years can now also apply for NLI and go through the same process.

    The contract is also void if the athlete decides to no longer play sports.

    However, the recruit is not automatically released from the contract. They must apply to the NLI and complete a release request form.

    Athletes also can get out of their contracts if there are mitigating circumstances. Athletes apply to the NLI Appeals Committee which analyzes the reason before making a decision. They look on a case-by-case basis as to what has changed since the athlete signed their NLI.

    Student-athletes such as Jaden Rashada have recently been released from their NLI.

    What Happened to Jaden Rashada?

    Jaden Rashada was a top quarterback recruit in the 2023 class and after a fierce recruitment battle between Miami (FL) and Florida. He had originally committed to Miami, before flipping his commitment to Florida, where he signed his NLI. Rashada signed his NLI during the early signing period of 2022.

    He signed for Florida on the terms that he would be paid a generous name, image, and likeness (NIL) deal, worth a reported $13 million.

    The money was coming from the Gator Collective syndicate, but after it transpired they could no longer pay that kind of money, Rashada asked to be released from his NLI. After three days, Florida agreed to his release, and Rashada changed his commitment.

    MORE: 2024 QB Recruit Rankings

    After being released from Florida, Rashada waited until national signing day in February 2023, to sign a new letter of intent. He opted to commit to Arizona State, the team his father played for from 1992-1994.

    Rashada was named the starter for the Sun Devils in his freshman season and started the first two games before aggravating an existing injury.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football’s transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

    Related Articles