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Implications of Letters of Intent

October 02, 2017

Letters of intents and financial aid statements are becoming more of a hot topic with each passing year. Legislative Services receives several calls a week related to “contracts” or similar documents signed by students with their schools. The National Office’s stance on this topic has not changed for many years as reflected in this brief written in 2013. We are going to touch on similar topics but also explore areas that have arisen more recently.

What is a letter of intent or a financial aid statement?

A letter of intent is used by some amateur athletic associations as a way for the student and school to “officially” commit to each other. A financial aid statement is generally a document the school asks the student to sign that outlines the financial aid they will provide to the student in exchange for the student enrolling at their institution and participating in their sport. These documents vary on terms and duration and the NAIA would strongly recommend you read them thoroughly before signing.

What is the NAIA’s approach to these documents?

The NAIA as a national office does not recognize these documents and will not enforce them against either party. That is, the NAIA will not make a student stay enrolled at an institution if they signed an intent document, nor will the NAIA force a school to honor a financial aid agreement. In the eyes of the NAIA, each school has autonomy on how they want to allocate and regulate financial aid in the same way as playing time. There is no document the NAIA recognizes that will identify a student with a school. The only way a student can identify with an institution is by enrolling in 12 institutional credit hours or representing an NAIA institution in competition.

Are there organizations that do utilize these types of documents?

Other organizations do recognize letters of intent such as the NCAA and NJCAA. However, the NAIA does not give any authority to these types of documents from any non-NAIA organizations. Also, there are conferences within the NAIA that have their own letters of intent. These intent documents might outline specific conference rules for students that are within the conference. For an example, if a student decided to transfer within the conference then the conference rules would apply and those rules should be outlined in the letter of intent. If a conference has stricter rules as to the transfer requirements, it is up to that conference to enforce the transfer requirements in conjunction with the NAIA requirements.

Common scenarios

Can a student sign a letter of intent and still participate in the recruiting process?

Yes, from the NAIA’s perspective this is fine because we do not recognize these documents. Until you identify (12 institutional credit hours or by representing an institution in competition) you are free to be recruited and pursue all options. You are also free to continue to compete. The NAIA’s bylaws do not prohibit a high school athlete from being recruited or pursuing other schools until they are identified on campus. One of the NAIA’s main philosophies is to ensure each student athlete is able to find the best school for them.

Can a student sign a letter of intent at an NAIA school and another non-NAIA school?

Yes, once again in the eyes of the National Office we do not honor these types of documents, so from our perspective this is fine. However, there could be rules within your conference and the other athletic association that could come into play. Before you sign a document make sure you read it entirely and ask as many questions as possible.

What if a student signs a letter of intent and once they get on campus they realize the school was not a good fit?

Per NAIA bylaws, if a student has not competed for the institution, then they would be able to transfer and play immediately. If they student has competed for their NAIA institution, then they will be subject to NAIA transfer rules.

If the student wishes to transfer, whether it is to a school within their conference, another NAIA institution, or to another sport organization, it would be up to the student to read his/her letter of intent or financial agreement to see what implications might come from transferring.

What if I sign a letter of intent but failed to meet the academics requirements?

If your letter outlines specific academics requirements then you would need to address this with your institution. If you failed to meet NAIA academic requirements then you would not be eligible regardless of your letter of intent. You would need to refer to the document and to your school to see if this would nullify your contract.

Feel free to answer the question at the bottom of the page to give us feedback on what you learned from today's brief.

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