National Signing Day: Top college prospects announce their choices on Wednesday
Hundreds of high school seniors across the country will sit behind a table in front of cameras and surrounded by proud smiles this Wednesday as another “NLI Day” (National Letter of Intent Day) takes place from coast to coast.
4,662 total NCAA D1 Scholarships for Women vs. 2,039 for Men
National signing day represents the end of the recruiting process for high school seniors to formalize their financial package offers and reciprocate that commitment to their school of choice. For the most sought after high school seniors, it can also represent the end of a tumultuous period of campus visits, negotiations, and the stress of scanning the sidelines for their top 5 schools’ coaches on the at showcase tournaments.
In soccer, many NLI signings by female athletes are far from big news as the nation’s top female players typically make verbal commitments during their junior year, with some even calling their shot as sophomores or freshman.
The boys side of NLI day in soccer holds at least some suspense as there are fewer overall scholarships available, while other players consider the growing number of professional opportunities in the United States and around the world.
Beyond the professional opportunities for men, fundamentally the longer delay in their announcing a decision is more likely driven by supply and demand, with coaches able to hold off their offers longer as there are less than half the number of overall scholarships to go around. (333 women’s teams X 14 full scholarships per team vs. 206 men’s teams X 9.9 full scholarships)
In recent years, the ceremony depicting the signing of a college commitment has taken center stage on NLI day, with the photo opportunity too good to pass up for proud parents, coaches, and high school Athletic Directors galore.
However, an NLI is only technically signed when there is an agreement by the player to accept financial support in exchange for playing for the school. It’s binding only in that it exclusively ties them to a sports commitment to that school for one year. The player may still go elsewhere to study, but if they want to play soccer at that alternate destination in their freshmen year, they must obtain a release from the original coach.
Whether the paper being signed in those ceremonies is a real NLI or just a blank sheet of paper, the public act is certainly a socially binding event that signals the start of the preseason preparations for every player who settles on their final destination. Whether they’re proving their ROI to a Division I coach or simply trying to make a Division III roster, the onus will be on them to impress from the start of their college careers.
Technically, NLIs are only for athletes accepting financial support in exchange for playing
Next up will be the flood of press releases from schools announcing their signing classes. For those truly interested in the nuance of scholarships vs. walk-on statuses, NCAA rules at least provide some clarity as those announcements come out – but with a catch, as an NLI isn’t the only way to prove your commitment to attend. Some parents eager to see their players’ names on those releases will forward a housing deposit to the institution ahead of schedule.
So the eyes of the soccer community will be watching these young boys and girls on Wednesday as they officially reveal – or simply confirm – their choices, while colleges look to the future of their rosters as they try and build for national success.
It will certainly be a day to remember on all sides, but now the real work truly begins.
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