Different Divisions – Different Intent Agreements for College Sports

With the early NLI signing date creeping up on us, we are reminded that not all divisions or athletic associations are the same. While some athletes may be looking at just a particular division, others may consider offers from across the board. 

It is surprisingly common for athletes and their families to mix up the differences and procedures not only between NCAA Divisions I-III, but also between the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA, so we’ve broken them down for you before your big day!

Related: Everything You Need to Know about College Leagues and Divisions

All DI and DII athletes are encouraged to sign a binding agreement referred to as the National Letter of Intent on either the early signing date (in the fall) or the late signing date (in the spring). By the contract, the athlete will attend that school for one or more academic years in return for an agreed upon scholarship amount. This restricts the athlete from communicating with other schools while committed to that school. The NLI is voluntary but often used by schools to protect both the athlete and school. 

Related: Step-by-Step College Admissions Guide for Athletes

There is no binding agreement or NLI for DIII athletes to sign. There is a paper called a Celebratory Form, which is non-binding and more for fun to officially celebrate your commitment to the school. 

Related: Where DI, DII, and DIII Differ for Student-Athletes

The NAIA does not recognize a national letter of intent. They allow the schools to act on their own. Schools individually work on the scholarship paperwork presented to the athlete rather than provide a binding agreement. 

Related: What You Need to Know When Considering the NAIA

NJCAA/JuCo use their own Letter of Intent (LOI) form that provides the scholarship information for that athlete. The difference between this and the NLI is that there is no mandate for athletic aid. Once signed they also can’t be contacted by other NJCAA/JuCO schools while committed.

* Originally published on October 4, 2021, by Brittany Collens

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