Filed under Sports

Letters of Intent bring new talent to athletics

The greatest feeling for any high school athlete is when they sign a National Letter of Intent that will allow him or her to continue playing sports after high school. It’s a chance for the athlete to go to school on an athletic scholarship and play at a high level of competition.

The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a program that is administered by the NCAA, which helps form an agreement between a prospective student athlete and the signing institution. The institution offers an athletic scholarship to the athlete in exchange that they will promise to enroll and play at that institution.

This agreement binds the student athlete to the signing institution for one academic year. Should the student athlete have a change of heart after agreeing to play, they would not be able to play at any NCAA institution for that year.  Once a student has signed a NLI for an institution no other institution can contact that student about playing for them. The NCAA has strict penalties for any college or university that breaks this rule.

November fourteenth was the official start of the early signing period for schools. The UIS athletic department sent out twelve NLIs to prospective athletes. Most of these athletes have already given a verbal agreement to play for the campus, but some are still undecided. Some potential student athletes may receive multiple NLIs from different schools, however they can only sign one.

The students had until November twenty-first to make their decision and sign or else the letter would become null and void. They will not have another opportunity until the spring when the second signing period starts.

Each year athletic departments send out dozens of NLIs hoping that prospective high school athletes will agree to come and play at their respective schools. However, the process of recruiting potential athletes starts a lot sooner than when the NLIs are sent out. The process begins with an athlete contacts a coach and stating that they are possibly interested in playing at their school. Sometimes coaches scout potential athletes by attending games and looking for players they believe will make a great addition to their team. The next step for the prospective athlete is to come and visit the campus. While on-campus they can watch their potential team play and meet with the coaches to gain interest in playing at that school.

“We get them (prospective players) to come in and see the education side and the athletic side and sell them on that they are going to get a great education and play on a high level” stated men’s head basketball coach Ben Weirzba.

It is an exciting time in any high school athlete’s life, but according to the athletic department in an online article, “it’s an exciting time for the athletic staff as we secure our future ‘Stars’.”

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