College Recruiting FAQ: How Does National Signing Day Work?

Expecting to play sports in college but unsure whether to sign a Letter of Intent? STACK Expert Steve Green answers your questions about National Signing Day.

National Signing Day

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The college recruiting process is a long road that ends, for some, on National Signing Day, the first day an athlete can sign a Letter of Intent to attend a college or university.

Before you sign on the dotted line, here's the lowdown on NSD.

When does it happen?

National Signing Day 2014 was Feb. 5 for football, track, cross country, soccer and field hockey (it will be Feb. 4 in 2015). NSD is April 16 for basketball and all other sports. You typically have a couple of months after that date to sign with a school.

This year, football's regular signing period ends April 1, while basketball's ends May 21 (for Division I) and August 1 (for Division II).

What am I signing?

The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a binding agreement an athlete (and his or her parent or guardian) signs with a college or university. By signing the letter, you agree to attend that school full time for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters, depending on the school's schedule.)

No one is required to sign a Letter of Intent, but many athletes choose to do so, effectively ending their recruitment and allowing them to enjoy the rest of their high school career with less stress about the process. Once signed, the agreement is binding.

Who signs?

Not every athlete has to sign a Letter of Intent. An NLI must include an athletic scholarship. If you're a walk-on or you're pursuing Division III athletics, you will not sign one.

How do I get a signing letter?

It's important to begin your recruiting process early during your high school career. Coaches contact athletes as soon as the NCAA permits for the different sports, but athletes can get a leg up by researching schools and contacting coaches on their own. Coaches will not be able to engage in conversation until NCAA rules permit, but by making the initial contact, you can get on their radar.

What happens if I don't sign?

Athletes are not required to sign, but if you don't, a college coach may fill your spot with an athlete who will sign. It's important for athletes and coaching staffs to have clear communication throughout the process.

Will there be a party?

Some schools have elaborate events to celebrate National Signing Day. Some athletes simply sign and send in the NLI with little fanfare.

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