Navigating the path to playing NCAA soccer is a lot like trying your first cone drill — confusing, twisting, and a little scary. But once you know how it’s done, you can focus on the next step.
Unlike most NCAA sports, soccer does not have an early signing period during the fall. The initial opportunity for high school seniors to sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI) in the sport of women’s and men’s soccer begins on the first Wednesday in February and continues until August 1. With the beginning of soccer’s signing period here, I thought it would be useful to review pertinent NCAA bylaws relating to the signing of the National Letter of Intent.
Verbal Commitments and Written Offers of Athletically Related Financial Aid
In soccer, it is common for prospective student athletes to receive verbal offers from college coaches and then verbally commit to institutions prior to signing the National Letter of Intent. Depending on the institution, the level of play and the prospect, verbal commitments happen as early as the sophomore or junior year of high school. A verbal commitment is not a binding commitment. It is also common for institutions to provide a written offer of athletically related financial aid prior to the initial NLI signing date. This written offer is also not binding. At the NCAA Division I level, a written offer of athletically-related financial aid may not be made prior to August 1 of a prospective student athlete’s senior year of high school.
An institution cannot provide a Prospective Student Athlete a written offer of athletically related financial aid unless the prospective student athlete has registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and is placed on the Institution Request List (IRL).
The National Letter of Intent (NLI)
While written offers of athletically related financial aid may be made prior to the start of soccer’s February signing period, it is only the signing of the National Letter of Intent that serves as the binding document of commitment between a prospective student athlete and an institution.
The NLI must be accompanied by an athletics aid agreement which details exactly how much athletic aid is to be provided to the student athlete. If a student athlete is not receiving any athletic aid and are a non-scholarship walk-on, he/she is not permitted to sign a National Letter of Intent.
A student athlete may sign an NLI only during the designated signing period. Presuming a student athlete is within the designated period, he/she and a parent or legal guardian must sign the NLI and accompanying athletic aid agreement within seven days of the issuance date noted on the NLI signing page for the NLI to be valid. An NLI becomes null and void if the student athlete is denied admission to the institution or fails to meet the NCAA eligibility requirements. There are severe penalties for not fulfilling the NLI agreement, so a student athlete should be very sure of his/her decision before signing a NLI and accompanying athletic aid agreement.
Recent NCAA II rule changes allow NCAA Division II college coaches to call, text, send recruiting materials, have in-person off-campus contact with prospects and parents, and offer paid official Visits from June 15 PRECEDING the prospect’s junior year of high school. NCAA Division I college coaches are not permitted to call, text or send recruiting material until September 1 of the prospect’s junior year and cannot have in-person off-campus contact until July 1 following the junior year, or provide paid official Visits until the opening day of classes of prospect’s senior year.
Due to the differences noted above, prospective student athletes have the opportunity for much earlier contact from NCAA II coaches and paid official visits to NCAA II colleges. For a prospective student athlete to take advantage of these recruiting rule changes, he/she should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center prior to the completion of the sophomore year of high school. Prospects are not allowed to take paid official visits unless they are registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
If you are entering the spring semester of your sophomore year or later of high school and intend to enroll at a NCAA I or II institution, register at the NCAA Eligibility Center this semester. The NCAA Eligibility Center examines core-course GPA, standardized test scores and amateur status to determine eligibility status. Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center at: web3.ncaa.org/ecwr3/ The registration fee is $80 for domestic students.
If you intend to enroll at a NCAA I or II institution you must present a standardized test score. The next ACT test date is April 8, 2017. Register for the ACT test at act.org
The next SAT test date is March 11, 2017. Register for the SAT at collegeboard.org
We hope you found this information useful. The next edition of Collegiate Corner will detail the necessary core-course GPA and test score requirements to be eligible to play NCAA I, NCAA II, and NAIA soccer.